It has been quite sometime since I built our Prodigy PC, but in that time I've had to move house, fly to Taipei for Computex, and completely pack and re-setup my office. But, we're here, and we're finally back in action.
What we have here today is a look at the GIGABYTE Z77N-Wi-Fi's on-board VGA performance. Sure, most people won't use this motherboard for gaming, but it can do the job at 1280x720. Let's take a look at our range of tests to see how gaming goes at 1280x720 and 1920x1080.
I'm not a big fan of optical drives, and haven't had one in my system for quite sometime now (probably around the time Windows Vista was released). How do you install Windows if you don't have an optical drive? Well, Microsoft are kind enough to help us out with this with the Windows 7 (and 8) USB/DVD Download Tool.
This tool creates a bootable DVD or USB flash drive of a Windows disc, which you can boot from, and install Windows from. It's more efficient, and much, much faster, too. You will need a Windows 7 ISO file in order to proceed from here.
This tool is best for those who have previously received an ISO file of Windows, and if you haven't, this will be a hurdle for you.
AMD's Eyefinity technology is a technological marvel when it's setup - giving you so much more desktop real estate, and the utter eye-popping goodness it provides in games doesn't need to be reiterated.
We've written a guide to walk you through this setup, but you'd obviously need a few things to get to this stage, and run Eyefinity. Let's talk about that first. Eyefinity is a multi-display technology from AMD that works with many different video outputs, but has a reliance on one technology in particular - DisplayPort.
AMD's Eyefinity technology won't work without it, so if you're building a new machine and don't have the monitors yet - be careful with your purchases. We'd suggest getting all DisplayPort-capable monitors to make this less of a hassle, but then most AMD Radeon GPUs don't have enough DisplayPort outputs to handle this.
So it would be better to buy monitors that have both DisplayPort, and DVI or HDMI - and to be careful with your video card choice.
Because we'll be writing software and installation guides as Tweakipedia goes on, we might as well start right from the beginning and show you the tools we'll be using, and how you can use them too.
We'll be using VMware Workstation 9, where you can get the free trial here. The use of virtual machines can be great in the right hands, or for the right tools, and thanks to our core- and RAM-heavy systems these days, virtual machines are a perfect way to test out new software.
We'll be using virtual machines so we don't trash our installs of Windows, or require SSD after SSD to have a bunch of different operating systems installed. First up we'll walk you through how to install Windows 7 through VMware Workstation 9.
It's a quick tip, but something you might find useful once you've tried it out. The normal size of icons on your taskbar is pretty big, once you've changed them, something you will notice after a while.
We wrote a guide a couple of days ago on how to use Time Machine on your Apple Mac to back your system up, and now we have Other World Computing (OWC) helping us upgrade our Mac with their awesome and incredibly fast 480GB Aura Pro SSD.
We have a late-2010 Apple MacBook Air to try the OWC 480GB Aura Pro SSD out on, with OWC being the only aftermarket source for SSD upgrades to the MBA. The SSD in the late-2010 MBA is impressive, but OWC's Aura Pro is definitely a huge step up.
So before any upgrade can be done, we don't want any data loss, so follow our Time Machine backup guide to back your data up then we'll dive right into this MBA SSD upgrade guide.
Backing your system is an important part of your weekly or monthly routine, but most of us don't do it as often as we should. This leaks to serious data losses if a HDD catastrophically fails (which isn't that often - but it happens). I personally don't do it too often as I have a NAS for backup, which we'll get into later in our Tweakipedia posts.
For now, we have a guide coming up shortly on upgrading the storage on your Apple MacBook Air with a new SSD from Other World Computing, before this can come I have to back up my Mac - this is where the guide on how to do that comes in.
Using Apple's Time Machine is not hard at all, with even a novice user capable of doing this. We'll take the stand point of someone using a hard drive that needs to be formatted to work with a Mac first, but most of you won't need to do this.
If you're running an older laptop that's starting to feel a bit long in the tooth, it may be time to consider doing some upgrades to extend the longevity of the system. Our own Chris Ramseyer, along with most tech gurus, will tell you that upgrading to an SSD is one of the best ways increase the performance of an aging system and breathe new life into it. Previously the process of upgrading a disk could be complicated, but there are now many tools and different ways of upgrading a system to take advantage of a fast new SSD. In today's guide, we'll show you how to upgrade your aging laptop-or even a new one, as is the one we're using today-to a solid-state drive. We'll also cover upgrading RAM to get the most performance we can from easily upgraded components.
First, let me thank Corsair for providing the 240GB Force GS SATA III solid-state drive used in this guide and the 8GB kit of Vengeance DDR3-1866MHz laptop RAM. They're always really supportive of TweakTown and have provided other equipment used in our laptop benchmark suite. Without further ado, let's dive straight into the upgrade guide. After we're done with this, we'll show some benchmarks and analyze how much extra performance we squeezed out of the system.
When I used to LAN regularly, I was at a time in my life when I had multiple systems. I used to have one decent high-end system and a Shuttle system. The Shuttle system was great for portability, but hardware at the time could never compete with a full-ATX system. Those days are over.
My love of building PCs has been somewhat watered down over the years, it feels like there's less and less time to tinker around with them. But then you get the opportunity to build an awesome PC like this, and it all rushes back to you in an instant. We talked to a bunch of our great friends at BitFenix, Corsair and GIGABYTE to provide us with some hardware to build one of the fastest PCs we could in BitFenix's awesome Mini-ITX Prodigy case.
Then came the emails and waiting for the parts to arrive, and a few days ago we received the final parts to begin our build guide on the Prodigy. We're going to turn this into a multi-part adventure. The first of which will be this build guide you're reading now. We'll follow this up every week or so with a new piece on it. This means you should expect another couple of pieces before the month is out, covering many different topics from within the system itself. We'll cover 1080p gaming, triple-screen gaming, benchmarks, some storage benchmarks and throw in some numbers on the latest games - Crysis 3, BioShock Infinite, Sleeping Dogs, Tomb Raider and more.