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November 30, 2005

Linksys joins the Wi-Fi MIMO party


Carmen Nobel at eWeek has the story:

Cisco Systems Inc.’s Linksys division is offering new Wi-Fi hardware that offers throughput and data transfer rates that rival Fast Ethernet, albeit with proprietary technology.

The WRT54GX4 Wireless-G Broadband Router and WPC54GX4 Wireless-G PC Card are based on the third generation of MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) chip sets from Airgo Networks Inc. The chip sets can support data rates of up to 240M bps, with “real-world” TCP/IP throughput rates huddling around 120M bps, according to Airgo officials in Palo Alto, Calif.

“The cool thing about this generation is that it’s not just for notebooks anymore,” said Greg Raleigh, CEO of Airgo. “You can connect your desktops and do away with the Ethernet.”

You can do that with 802.11a, b, or g too, but MIMO gives you more speed (likely not noticeable in everyday use) and more range (likely very noticeable).

MIMO technology runs multiple data streams in a single channel to boost throughput to rates of up to 108M bps, which is double that of the maximum speeds of 802.11a and 802.11g. Some variant of MIMO will be at the heart of the upcoming IEEE 802.11n standard. Many enterprise-level hardware makers plan to wait for the standard before releasing a MIMO product, but ratification of that standard isn’t expected until early 2007 due to an ongoing stalemate between two competing contingents within the standard task group.

In October, a splinter group called the Enhanced Wireless Consortium announced itself and its plans to expedite the ratification of 802.11n with its own draft specification. The group includes several powerhouse players in the Wi-Fi space, including Intel Corp., Cisco, Atheros Communications Inc., Broadcom Corp. and Linksys—but not Airgo.

So Cisco/Linksys is on the opposite side of the fight from Airgo, but releases a “pre-n” product based on Airgo’s technology? Makes sense to me! See also a previous post on the 802.11n standards battle.

In any case, the Linksys press release is online with more info and prices:

The WRT54GX4 and WPC54GX4 are available now through Linksys e-commerce resellers at estimated street prices of $149.99 and $99.99 respectively. The products will soon also be available from retail, direct response, and VAR partners.

as well as the spec sheets: WRT54GX4, WPC54GX4.


Posted at 8:01 pm. Filed under Airgo, Cisco, Companies, Linksys, MIMO, Wi-Fi

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November 28, 2005

Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW 24 inch LCD Monitor


Here’s another item from the TechSpot Holiday Gift Guide that likely has more general appeal than an 800GB RAID 0 array. It’s the Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW 24 inch LCD Monitor which lists for a remarkably low $1,199 at Dell, but which you can find for less than $1,000 elsewhere.

This monitor has been on the market for a while and collected a number of reviews. All seem to agree that for ordinary productivity applications it is incredibly slick. Bent User (who has some nice photos):

I am no stranger to high-resolution work environments. Prior to using the 2405FPW, I used two monitors with resolutions of 1420×1200 and 1280×1024. As you might expect, the difference between one large monitor and two smaller is night and day. Let me say that again: there is no comparison. Widescreen 1080P isn’t just bigger, it allows you to do things that you otherwise could not. Consider the following: the 1920×1200 pixel native resolution of the 2405FPW allows Word, Internet Explorer and Instant Messenger to run comfortably side-by-side without overlap…

Hit the link for the screenshot. Also:

It is also important to note that even with the immense 1920×1200 resolution, the pixel pitch … is still reasonable – 0.270 mm – comparable to that of a 19” monitor running at 1280×1024. This means that because of the monitor’s size you can get away with the high resolution without increased eye strain.

More in the same vein from Loyd Case at PC Mag where it is an Editor’s Choice:

With its 1,920-by-1,200 (WUXGA) resolution, the 2405FPW is a productivity boon for graphics pros, spreadsheet jockeys, and knowledge workers who want to keep an e-mail window open off to the side while they work in another application. And while the Dell is not a TV (it lacks a built-in tuner), it’s just crying out to be connected to a Media Center PC (or other tuner-equipped machine).

Even though low price doesn’t always mean a good product, we’re happy to report that Dell has delivered a highly capable widescreen display. The model has a 9-in-1 USB memory card reader and a USB 2.0 hub built into the display. In the lab, the 2405FPW hit its marks, with a measured contrast ratio of 612:1. The minimum dark level was also quite good for an LCD. In addition, the unit we tested tracked close to the 6,500 K (Kelvin) color temperature that’s specified by the NTSC standard, which is good news if you plan on watching DVD movies or TV.

One key parameter for fast-moving video and high-frame-rate gaming is the response time. Dell rates the 2405FPW at 12 ms gray-to-gray (from one shade of gray to another). Several action movies we viewed showed no visible signs of smearing or streaking—once we updated the graphics card driver. If you buy one of these, make sure you update your video card with the latest drivers. Games also looked good, and we saw no ghosting even in fast-paced 3D game play. Most games, however, are still mired in 4:3 aspect ratio, so you’ll want to set the scaling of the display to Aspect Ratio; the default stretched mode makes some games look really odd.

Which introduces several important points. As Dell warns on their web site, you need to be sure that your graphics card supports the WUXGA resolution of 1920×1200. Then there was a constant refrain in the reviews that you need to update your graphics card drivers, particularly for video playback. ExtremeTech:

We watched parts of several DVD movies on the UltraSharp 2405FPW, also through the DVI input. At first, we encountered a really ugly image quality problem, with white streaks appearing during full-screen video playback. We paid a visit to nVidia’s Nzone web site and downloaded the public beta 67.66 drivers for the GeForce 6 series. The image-quality issue disappeared. The lesson here is that driver updates may be needed for these ultra-high resolution displays.

Frankly, the reviews vary greatly on DVD playback and it’s not clear how many would have been improved with a driver update. Kristina Blachere at CNET:

DVD playback was mediocre, with visible streaking and ghosting; however, the UltraSharp 2405FPW rendered details well, even in darker scenes.

Alexander Gasparski at WindowsAtoZ:

We did, however, notice small ghosting and streaking when playing fast-moving action games and watching a DVD, but nothing that was bad enough to make the picture anywhere near mediocre. Dark-scenes rendered and displayed very good in our testing as well.

PCWorld:

The Dell’s numerous inputs should endear it to entertainment-minded buyers. The 2405FPW accepts not only analog and digital output from a PC, but also composite, component, and S-Video from consumer electronic devices such as DVD players and camcorders. Each input is clearly labeled and numbered on the back, and the corresponding numbers on the front bezel light up as you select the input.

The existence of inputs does not translate into excellent output, however. When we played our test DVD movie through our PC’s digital output, the 2405FPW showed fuzzy images and somewhat dull colors. When we connected a high-quality DVD player to the monitor via its component inputs, the colors improved, but the image still lacked crispness. Details did look impressive in dark areas, though, particularly in the highlights on a black velvet cloak.

Finally, as the PC Mag review alludes, gaming is problematic on all large displays because of the aspect ratios. Extreme Tech recommends checking in on the Wide Screen Gaming Forum for particular games but observes that when the full resolution is supported, it is really nice. LAN Game Reviews:

Right off the bat let me say WOW. Primarily this was used for BF2, EQ2 and City of Heroes and not only was the gameplay excellent but quite possibly somewhat improved due to clarity. The special effects when casting a spell or firing the mini-gun seemed to jump of the screen…

With a decent 5.1 sound system, and a quality video card to drive the monitor you will be startled by the impact of a well placed arty round. This is not the kind of monitor that makes a game look better; it immerses you into the world as the game designers intended. This monitor is made for one thing and one thing alone, to make you feel like you can leap from tall buildings… and feel frightened when you realize your secondary in City of Heroes hasn’t got Flight yet!

To sum it up, the Dell UltraSharp 2405FPW seems to be a bargain on a very capable display for ordinary computer uses, but you need to be sure your graphics card can handle it. For DVD playback and games you will need to be a little careful.


Posted at 8:04 pm. Filed under Companies, Dell, Displays, LCD

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Western Digital Caviar RE2 WD4000YR


It’s the time of year for many publications to list their Holiday gift guides and lists. TechSpot has a variety of interesting items but I guess I’m most attracted to the geekiest, the Western Digital Caviar RE2 400GB Hard Drive (Serial ATA-150, 7200 RPM, 16MB – SKU: WD4000YR). But there’s a trick – get two and put them in a RAID 0 configuration:

For that special geek in your life, give the gift of tremendous storage capacity. Sure, you can slap just about any drives together, but the WD 400GB RE2 (WD4000YR) drives really shine in RAID configuration. Not only will you be pairing two of the fastest 7200 RPM / 16MB cache drives available, but you’ll be giving the recipient 800GB of storage in RAID 0… Every computer nerd’s dream!

Sounds good to me! However, note that you don’t want just one:

Just shy away from the WD4000YR as a single drive, since it does not provide the same error protection redundancy found in your traditional, “solo” SATA drives.

StorageReview.com, who has a detailed technical review, elaborates:

In the end, the Caviar RE2 WD4000YR sweeps our high-level performance tests across the board. Equipped with a solid NCQ implementation, the drive’s multi-user scores never falter and top the competition whether in a light, a medium, or a heavy load scenario. Combined with the drive’s presumed (given the 5-year warranty, 1.2m MTBF, and Raptor-leveraged heritage) reliability, the WD4000YR emerges as today’s preeminent 7200 RPM offering for server use.

Despite this stellar performance, however, WD cautions against using the RE2 in a desktop system. The drive’s TLER feature expects to be paired with a RAID controller. In the event of an unlikely but possible error situation, the RE2 may not make every attempt to recover when operating on a regular controller as a standard SATA drive would.

I guess it depends on the size of your desktop system!


Posted at 6:20 pm. Filed under Companies, Western Digital

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