Tuesday, January 13

AMD's Dragon Gaming PC, myth or no myth?

No one likes competition more than I do. I do not believe that Intel would have produced the excellent processors they have over the past five years, if AMD were not competing with them.

AMD's Phenom processor was thumped soundly by Intel's Core 2 series and it's been a while since any PC experts, whether real experts or just experts in their own opinion, have been able to recommend a gaming PC built around anything other than Intel.

The new Core i7 processor benchmarks even better than the Core 2, and computer systems built around the Core i7 are remarkably inexpensive. Check this Dell deal at Costco or this Gateway build at Best Buy. (Disclaimer: These links work at the time of this blog post. I can't promise you they will work tomorrow, or at any other time in the future. In case they stop working, just close your eyes and imagine LOADED computer systems based on the Core i7 for less than $1500!)

However, just when you think it's over, AMD drops the news about their new Phenom II X4 processors. The very early benchmarks (big grain of salt there, please) show this new chip competing very well with the Core i7. Of more interest to me is the news that AMD has their Dragon gaming PC platform, a combo of parts including the Phenom II, motherboards with their 790X chipsets, and ATI 4800 series video cards.

According to this post on Tom's Hardware, AMD claims that a computer with a Phenom II X4 processor, an ATI 4870 1GB video card, a 790GX motherboard, and 4GB of DD2-1066 memory can be found for $900. That, friends, is one hell of a deal.

So I spent all morning looking for it. I searched Google, I checked all the web sites for the usual suspects building gaming PCs (e.g. iBuypower, CyberpowerPC, and so forth), and I found one company offering a computer system identified as an AMD Dragon gaming PC. The Dell XPS 625. Yes, that's right. Dell.

Only when I tried to come anywhere NEAR the specs AMD touted to Tom's Hardware on the Dell site, the price ZOOMED to nearly $2000. And that is most definitely NOT a hell of a deal. In fact, Dell themselves kick that deal's butt with XPS computers using the Core i7.

So what gives here? AMD makes a new processor that, at least early on, seems to move them back into real competition with Intel. Furthermore, they make this new processor the centerpiece for a gaming PC platform that has the geek in me quivering when they describe how a $900 system would be configured.

But is that just wishful thinking on AMD's part? WHO IS BUILDING THIS $900 COMPUTER? AMD's own web site has no information on it, in fact their web site doesn't even show the Phenom II X4 processor in ANY of their Where to Buy links.

I'm challenging AMD and AMD fanboys right now, show me this computer system. The one Tom's Hardware says AMD touted to them. I want to know it exists, because I want to know that competition is alive again, and because I'm in the market for a new gaming PC myself. Show me this PC, and I will make it the subject of an Into Gaming feature (and update this blog post).

Personally, I think AMD's price reflects a few missing parts. Like, say, a hard drive, case, and power supply? Yeah...

Wednesday, January 7

How to guarantee a billion comments to a blog post

Rafe Needleman writes for CNET. If you subscribe to their Anchordesk email newsletter, you will recognize his name. On January 5th, 2009, Rafe wrote a blog post on CNET's news site called Switcher's lament: The case against Mac in which he tells the story of he and his wife switching to Apple MacBook computers (they'd been previously using Windows notebooks).

The blog post was, I thought, quite fair and balanced (apologies to Fox News for borrowing their slogan, there). Rafe admitted up front that their problems were caused primarily by switching from a Windows environment where they both had a number of applications they'd come to rely on for their everyday work. He also said plainly that the Apple hardware was high quality and stable. He did pick one nit with Mac OS X regarding where the standard UI locates an application's menu bar, but I don't think he made too much of it.

The blog post has already generated a huge number of comments. I know, big surprise, right?

There are three topics you never cover unless you are ready to deal with the pushback from the zealots: Politics, Religion, and Apple. It's almost as if Steve Jobs has promised the Mac faithful high speed WiFi in heaven, if they defend Apple against any hint of criticism in this life.

Rafe had to know what sort of storm his blog post would whip up. Any of us who have covered technology for more than a few weeks know that Mac users sniff out anything that even vaguely resembles criticism of Apple or their beloved Mac computers, and attack it with a ferocity that is unparalleled in the online world.

I use two computers on a daily basis. My notebook runs Windows Vista and my desktop PC runs Windows XP Professional (although I will be replacing it with a NEW desktop PC very soon now, and I expect that one will run Windows Vista also). It does not threaten me or make me angry that some people don't use Windows. Nor do I think I am right, or they are wrong. I don't use computers because I love the operating system that runs on them. I use computers because I want to run specific programs to do my work, manage my life, and play video games. Those programs run on Windows, ergo I use Windows.

Why must every Mac user take it as an insult that I prefer my computers to theirs? Why must every Mac user treat it like some test of intelligence or ethics? There is a term used to describe those who cannot handle criticism.