The TR Podcast 18: Netbooks, bargain-bin graphics, and consoles ruining PC games…. again

Date: Sept 27, 2008

Time: 1:26:52

Hosted by Jordan Drake

Co-Hosts: Scott Wasson, Geoff Gasior, Cyril Kowaliski

Listen now:
Download: MP3 (79.5MB) | M4A (64.1MB)

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Sponsored by TheJewelStore.com, your online source for unbeatable diamond, gemstone and wedding jewelry with expert personal service.

Show notes
Our tour of vocal tech reporting stops at all the major attractions this week. We start in the mailroom as Cyril gets his own question about how Intel’s Core 2 Duos stack up against AMD’s Phenom X3 and X4 processors. Then, Geoff covers our new netbook buying guide and stops by the poll to see which best-in-show netbook candidate has won the election.

This episode also comes chock-full of gaming news and reviews, as our editors talk about Mirror’s Edge news, relate their experiences with Crysis Warhead, and bask in the geeky Star Wars glory of The Force Unleashed. And it doesn’t stop there! We discuss the next version of Photoshop, HP’s plans for Voodoo PC, Scott’s next TV purchase… and more.

Send in listener mail, and we’ll answer on the podcast. – jdrake@techreport.com

Listener mail:

A question for Cyril (0:02:10) – from Brad:

“‘The E7400’s arrival could turn the heat up on AMD in the low end, as well. If the E7400 waltzed into e-tail listings right now, it would be sandwiched between AMD’s 2.4GHz, triple-core Phenom X3 8750 and the 2.2GHz, quad-core Phenom X4 9550—both comparatively handicapped in everyday tasks because of their lower clock speeds.’

“Isn’t comparing Intel’s Cheaper Dual Core to AMD’s 3-4 core processors like comparing apples and oranges. Wouldn’t it make more sense to compare the new intel 2.8 core 2 duo to AMD’s X2 5400 Black edition 2.8 dual core? Thats $133 vs $77(and will probably be less by the time the intel chip is released) not to mention the motherboard cost would probably be much less for the AMD chip as well. I know the intel chips are outperforming AMD’s at the moment, but is it that significant.
?”

Tech discussion:

    TR’s back-to-school netbook guide (0:08:27)- Read more

    TR’s netbook poll (0:16:56)- Read more

    Can a sub-$100 graphics card get the job done? (0:23:02)- Read more

    GeForce GTX 260s with 216 SPs start arriving (0:32:02)- First ad

    Mirror’s Edge comes November 11—but not for PCs (0:38:45)- Read more

    Our editors talk about Crysis Warhead and The Force Unleashed (0:46:07)

    Say hi to the TR navbar v3.0, now with a menu (0:56:59)- Read more

    Nvidia details Adobe CS4 GPU acceleration (1:00:31)- Read more

    HP to kill off Voodoo PC? (1:07:33)- Read more

That’s all, folks! Check back on October 4 for the next TR podcast.

Comments closed
    • dalhectar
    • 12 years ago

    As a Vista CableCard user, I could never go back to a Cable DVR. Being able to use extenders around the house, the flexibility of a PC for other content, and VMC plugins… I would say that the experience is literally worth the $1G entry costs. Just have to shop around for a good deal.

    As Comcast started to encrypt QAM stuff in my area, I got sick of not getting the channels I wanted and ended up going CableCard. Never turned back, and in fact, over time I’ve added more tuners and hard drives space to handle all the recording. I can’t watch the recorded shows on my Mac due to DRM, but that’s the only down side for me (beyond the initial purchase).

    As far as a TV, I definitely have to say that Plasma is not dead, and at a 46 or 50 inch price, plasma is more affordable too. My TV is a Panny TH-50PZ800U, and the real world blacks are better than any LCD. That results in very accurate color. Just select the THX mode, sit back ,and enjoy TV.

    • Yenboy1
    • 12 years ago

    Love the podcasts. I’m in the industry and do not have enough time to catch up on all the tech news.

    One comment…

    Cyril please clear your throat when you’re talking and please try to annunciate.

    Keep up the good work.

    • kj_tr
    • 12 years ago

    Hey Scott,

    I am sure you’ve got many responses to the HD and MCE issues you may have with the new TV. Just wanted to let you know that HD with MCE is very possible with your current with very little effort.

    So you have an older HTPC running XP MCE2k5.

    Just get a HDHomerun (by Silicon Dust) and you are done. There are many many more solutions, but this is the least impactful. You continue to use all your current HTPC hardware and you stick it to the man (lol!). So, the HDHomerun will tune clear QAM which your cable company provides for local HD programming. Also, you may be able to get premimum channels depending on your cable company. The HDHomeRun is ethernet so just add a small $10 (10/100) switch near you HTPC and you are done. I would definately look at vista but the HDHomeRun will run you approx $150, so might impact budget. Goto to the silicon dust website, put in your zipcode and see what channels you get in your area. I was very suprised when I installed and started watching. So, continue your cable service and you will get at least your locals in HD without having to worry about, signal problems with OTA (over-the-air). Enjoy your HDTV, another great podcast and good luck with upgrading your current HTPC. FYI, the SD on your HDTV may look bad, but a good GC and STD tuner can hlp that! Enjoy!

      • glynor
      • 12 years ago

      In my area, Time Warner does NOT broadcast all of their local channels in clear QAM HD, and you certainly can’t get ESPN, HBO, Discovery, or any of the other cable channels in HD that way.

      That isn’t a “real” solution, I’m afraid. It is certainly better than nothing, but the same could be accomplished with any QAM capable tuner card (including those from AMD/ATI and Hauppauge).

        • kj_tr
        • 12 years ago

        Scott said he had a media center pc running xp 2k5, so he doesn’t have digital cable. My suggestion would be simple and cheap. As I understand, the must carry applies to your cable company, so any OTA local digital broadcast must be carried but your cable company for free. I am not suprised that your cable company doesn’t broadcast clear QAM but I also thought that until I used the Homerun. And Homerun is supported in MCE2k5. The Vista cable card effort works, but cost a lot more than a homerun.

          • glynor
          • 12 years ago

          I think the point from the podcast was that he was going to *[

    • MaxTheLimit
    • 12 years ago

    I played through Assassin’s Creed on the keyboard and mouse and had very little problem. Mostly it was mouse + WASD, but the usual shift, space bar, and left ctrl were used for actions. I actually didn’t like using a controller. To be fair I was using a Logitech dual action rumble pad, and not the Xbox360 controller. I’m not in front of it now, so I can’t look. Scroll Lock was mentioned as a default key. What was it set to do?

    • glynor
    • 12 years ago

    Scott, recording HD from Satellite/Cable with a HTPC IS now possible, without cablecard!

    I went through almost the exact same dilemma a few months ago when I finally upgraded my aging 32″ Panasonic CRT to a shiny, new LCD HDTV. The display was perfect, but before I had everything running through my HTPC and it was beautiful. Now, one side note, I did not use Microsoft’s Windows MCE. I use Snapstream’s BeyondTV.

    As far as I’m concerned, switching to Time Warner’s terrible DVR (and they are terrible, I’ve used them) is not an acceptable option. It took some time, but we finally have an alternative.

    Hauppauge released their new HD-PVR device a few months back, which by-and-large solves the problem. It is an external USB2 box with component inputs on the back (and a S/DPIF input for digital audio) that has a hardware H264 encoder built in. It works fine with Windows XP (as well as Vista). It can record full resolution HD programming right off the box and use it just like an internal tuner card hooked up to an S-Video cable. It certainly wasn’t cheap at $250, but for what it does (real time, HD, H264 encoding) I’m really still pretty impressed. More info:
    §[<http://www.hauppauge.com/site/products/data_hdpvr.html<]§ The device does NOT work currently with Windows MCE, but it DOES work with both BeyondTV and SageTV. I'm leaning towards switching over to SageTV, but I'm hesitant to do so because my current system is working well now. With this device, one of those two applications, and a USB-UIRT (infra-red blaster) it is quite simple to get your external box to work just like you expect. I was worried about using the infrared blaster to change channels, but it has been flawless since I got it set up. Just make sure to put the IR transmitter RIGHT IN FRONT of the cable box, and don't try to go across the room or anything. For me, rather than being a downgrade, it actually turned out to be an upgrade. Since I had two existing analog SD tuners, I kept those in play (both BTV and Sage can use multiple tuners) and I use those to record SD content directly off of the analog cable feed. When I upgraded my service through Time Warner, I asked for them to NOT send me a DVR. They sent a very nice Motorola HD Digital Tuner, which has all sorts of outputs on it. It works absolutely perfectly with my HD-PVR, and I've been extremely happy. Some day, the cable company could perhaps turn off those old HD analog outputs with the copy protection mojo. I'm betting they won't though. There are plenty of people I know who still have older HDTVs with no HDMI ports (or none free for their TV Tuner box). I'd be surprised if they made that poor business move.

    • Pax-UX
    • 12 years ago

    Just on the Mirrors Edge stuff. The PC platform has gotten a rep for game piracy, how justified this is, is very debatable. I think it was quoted on a number of sites saying Spore had (at the time they checked on just one tracker) 28,000 clients downloading. At $50 that equates to 1.4 million at retail. Publishers see a downloaded copy a lost sale, again debatable, but at the end of the day their product is being used, even just for a short period of time. DRM or no DRM piracy would still be a problem as so called ’only download because of DRM’ is mostly people rationalizing their actions. Is it any wonder that the PC is strategically being ignored in favor of consoles? The level of piracy on a console is tiny in comparison to the PC.

    Then there are development issues on the PC with multiple hardware configurations, while the consoles have a fix hardware set; makes life easier to debug. With a console everything is pretty much the same, so it’s easy to ensure everybody has the same gaming experience. While the PC has the low, mid, high end to worry about; the scaling of a game requires extra code & testing. It can be like writing three different games adding a lot more complexity. The Crysis developers even admitted they made a mistaken aiming the PC spec so high as you enter a very small market, lucrative for hardware manufactures but not game developers as the low end game sells for the same price as the high-end, there’s no extra return on investment. To the number’s people it makes finical sense to aim for the lowest common denominator. They can’t quantify this extra effort returned in sales.

    DRM on the PC is two fold, slow Piracy and very importantly the secondhand games market which is again seen as lost sales. Crappy DRM stops the selling on of PC games after people are finished with it. For consoles this is a serious issue and publishers are becoming more vocal about it. After spending months & cash bigging up a game publishes don’t want a dud getting released then losing sales to the secondhand market as people trade in shortly after release (60% of my games are pre-owned). Shops sell the secondhand copy for close to full price and make a killing. Sony & Xbox are now ready to start selling games over the net simply because it makes more sense as the game is tied to an online account; we already have this with Steam. These online downloaded purchases make for a perfect business model, as they don’t have to worry about people selling it on, as they can’t.

      • Pax-UX
      • 12 years ago

      Forgot to say, another great show.

      • clone
      • 12 years ago

      r[

        • Pax-UX
        • 12 years ago

        Took me a while to find it. While what you say is also true, here’s what I was quoting from, where they said they got it wrong by going for the high end… From a Shacknews article from the 13th Sept, §[<http://www.shacknews.com/featuredarticle.x?id=999&page=2<]§ l[<*[

          • Pax-UX
          • 12 years ago

          While this is still a rumor at this point…

          l[<"There will be release day DLC that will contain [Gridlock, Subway], Canals, Mansion, and Tyro Station. These five maps will be free of charge but the only way to get them is if you receive a voucher, which every NEW copy of the game will have"<]l §[<http://www.shacknews.com/onearticle.x/55013<]§

    • SecretMaster
    • 12 years ago

    Another great podcast by the TR staff.

    Just one question. On the topic of fitting GDDR5 onto more cards in the 4000 series, will we ever see a 4850 variant with GDDR5? I thought the plan was to eventually phase GDDR5 onto the 4850, or maybe I misread something. Would GDDR5 actually be useful for the 4850?

    • SAMSAMHA
    • 12 years ago

    I just heard the bits about your hd tv. I had the same situation as you had. My TV of 10 years also went bad. The screen will change it’s size. I ended up buying a Sharp TV 42” the U64 version. A nice TV but has a bit flaws. I would suggest you to check this forum: §[<http://www.avsforum.com/<]§ It has a lot of resource on the TV and user feedback. As for the recording, you do not need Vista, any HD TV tuner with would work and even under XP. I am not too sure about the recorded quality but I dont' think it will be any issue.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 12 years ago

      You probably already pulled the trigger, Scott, but have you considered a LCD DLP hybrid? You get way more screen real estate for your buck, it’s only slightly thicker, and what you sacrifice isn’t that much.

      I had a friend who got a 42″ Samsung DLP like, two years ago. He got it because it was at the top of the price:features ratio; anything larger got exponentially more expensive. He bought an extended warranty that was a couple hundred more because he had heard that DLPs, like plasmas, have a “bulb” that will wear out over time, but you know what? It’s still going strong. His usage pattern may be a bit different than the average person, however, (/[

        • SonicSilicon
        • 12 years ago

        Enlighten me; what’s a LCD DLP hybrid? (A websearch is returning no relevant results.) I can’t imagine any reason to hybridize them.
        Personally, I’m waiting for the three-color LED backlit LCD screens to trickle down into more economical sizes. Either that or OLED (which seems to be perpetually 2 to 5 years away.)

          • ssidbroadcast
          • 12 years ago

          DLPs are thought of as “hybrids” because they’re thicker than LCDs but way thinner than rear-projection. Apparently, the technology is similar to rear-projection, except it uses “hundreds of thousands of tiny microscopic rotating mirrors” (/[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_micromirror_device<]§

            • SonicSilicon
            • 12 years ago

            That’s a rear-projection / flat-screen “hybrid,” I suppose, in the sense of form factor and weight. It’s still rear-projection from a technical standpoint.

            All rear projection has slimmed down in the last five to ten years due to more clever use of optics and reflection. The restriction on depth becomes that of the imaging device. CRT tubes are still much broader and heavier than a DMD, so a DLP system can be thinner. That will likely change again with color laser when it becomes commercially feasible.

            There’s nothing really “magical” about digital micro-mirror devices, though. They’re just binary light directors that can flip position fast enough to synthesize different intensities. Bounce red, green, and blue light off of it in rapid succession and you have color image. The basic concept has been around for quite some time :
            §[<https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Eidophor<]§

    • BoBzeBuilder
    • 12 years ago

    Oh man, those jeweleries look awesome, I specially love ruby, just gorgeous.

      • ssidbroadcast
      • 12 years ago

      Yeah um, if I were in the market for jewelry, I’d probably patronize these sponsors.

    • PetMiceRnice
    • 12 years ago

    The trend in PC gaming that I am not liking right now is the idea of a limited number of installs. Like many of us on here I’m sure, I don’t keep the same OS install going for long periods of time. If I’m paying for a game, I do reasonably expect to be able to install it on my computer as many times as I like.

    If the industry continues to move in the direction of limited installs, then my days of being a PC gamer are numbered. Red Alert 2, for example, was THE game that got me into the RTS genre several years ago. As such, I was really looking forward to Red Alert 3, but no more.

      • clone
      • 12 years ago

      I don’t really see limiting the number of installs as a problem so long as the number remains high enough, that said the nice thing about all of this protectionism is that I don’t ever plan on buying a console and if it becomes too much of a hassle I just won’t game anymore and can get back to living a real life gaming free.

      gaming isn’t a necessity and just something I do to pass the time…… no consoles and if PC gaming becomes a hassle then big deal I’ll find something else to do.

        • PetMiceRnice
        • 12 years ago

        Quite right, I have to agree with your perspective.

        • Saribro
        • 12 years ago

        I’m on a similar path away from gaming. Not bothering with consoles, having finished the older games I have so many times that it’s not that much fun to start over yet again anymore and having a PC that’s great for the work I do with it, but too slow/outdated for any recent game at reasonable settings, has weaned me off of gaming.

    • clone
    • 12 years ago

    ummmm…….. Laptops… brand new dual core Laptops with DVD+-RW, 2gb’s of ram a 15.4″ display and a 160gb hdd are selling at Dell for $499.00, not refurbished, not used but brand new and fully capable.

    compared to this why would anyone want a Netbook that aside from being lighter and a little less costly while offering much less of everything?

    I can understand the lightweight and convenience of a smaller netbook but jesus my eyes!!!!!!!…… squint city, the tiny keyboard, the limited capability …. just plain blows………. their is a limit to how small one should go and that extra $100 gets at least physically 50% more hardware and certainly more capability.

    I was using an LG E200 with 12.1″ display and it was literally at the limit for how small I am planning on ever going….. it was a great experience as it taught me that I needed a larger display.

    p.s. currently the new Nvidia 260’s / 216’s are not comparably priced to the 4870, they are new and may go down in price but all of the ones I’ve seen are well above $300.00 after tax and ship even factoring MIR’s while 4870’s are selling in the $250 ballpark after MIR’s and Palit in particular is selling a good quality Corsair 750 watt power supply + 4870 sonic dual fan cooler for $299.99 after MIR’s.

    • Valhalla926
    • 12 years ago

    Wait a sec, Jordan, you’re in NC too? How’s the gas situation in your area?

    • SAMSAMHA
    • 12 years ago

    Man, I have go to say. You guys playing way too much games. How can you get anything done when you spend all of the time playing games.:)

    • Forge
    • 12 years ago

    I’d just like to say thanks for the summaries. They aren’t as complete as I’d like, but it’s nice to at least know what you guys talked about, even if I didn’t have enough free time to listen.

    • Fighterpilot
    • 12 years ago

    Good episode guys,can’t wait to see the TR test of the GTX260 216 V the HD48701GB.
    Get moving on that will ya Scotty LOL

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