Monday, July 12, 2010

WOF: How many email accounts do you use?

I regularly use four separate accounts. Besides the standard personal and work addresses, I have an ancient account that's dedicated to things like registrations, purchases and subscriptions, while another is solely for times when I'm not comfortable giving out the others. All of them are funneled through a single Gmail inbox, which makes it easy to keep tabs on everything.

According to recent stats (PDF) published by The Radicati Group, the number of worldwide email accounts is expected to increase from 2.9 billion in 2010 to over 3.8 billion by 2014, with around 75% belonging to consumers and 25% being corporate. Unsurprisingly, the report also suggests that the average user has about two addresses. While that's entirely plausible, we have a hunch you aren't the "average user" – right?

What about you? How many accounts are you actively using and do you prefer checking them through a Web interface or a desktop client like Outlook? There's a poll eagerly awaiting your mouse click after the break, but don't be afraid to leave a comment, too.

GeForce GTX 460 performance, price detailed

If you still had any doubts about its existence, however, now you can catch a glimpse of two actual products expected to debut in the coming days along with some press slides detailing their performance. There's not much that hasn't been detailed about Nvidia's upcoming mid-range Fermi card already. Leaks have been trickling in from multiple sources since April and by now we know the GeForce GTX 460 will be based on a cut-down revision of the GF100 chip, dubbed GF104, and that it will come in two versions -- one with 768MB GDDR5 and a 192-bit memory and a slightly more expensive version that will carry 1GB of memory and a 256-bit memory interface.

The information was posted by a forum member at Expreview and depicts Gigabyte's GTX 460 as slightly faster than a "generic" HD 5830 in most tests, while remaining a bit slower than the GTX 465. The slides refer to the performance of a reference design GTX 460 with stock frequencies at 675MHz, 3600MHz and 1350MHz for the GPU, memory and shader clocks respectively.

The price is $199 for the 768 MB variant and between $229-239 for the 1GB model, which is rather aggressive for a card that is expected to outperform the $220 Radeon HD 5830. For its part, MSI has a non-reference card in the works which will feature a Cyclone Cooler and should come factory overclocked to 725MHz for the GPU and 1450MHz for shaders. There's no word on pricing for this model yet and a 1GB variant hasn't been confirmed either.

Microsoft Xbox Live revenue estimated to top $1 billion

Microsoft itself has been mum about specific sales figures, but the math seems about right: the financial news outfit simply multiplied the number of users Microsoft admits paid the annual Xbox Live fee -- about 12.5 million -- by the average price of $50 and came up with $625 million.

They then took Xbox chief operating officer Dennis Durkin's remark at E3 that sales of downloadable content topped subscription revenue for the first time and you have a total upwards of $1.25 billion.

comparison, the company is estimated to have raked in $800 million a year earlier from Xbox Live. Microsoft's Xbox Live reportedly closed a record sales year for fiscal 2010, which ended June 30. According to estimates published by Bloomberg recently, the premium gaming service over this last year managed to break the $1 billion dollar mark collectively through subscriptions, movie and TV show sales, and other downloadable content.

With Microsoft making such a hefty sum from their hybrid subscriptions + virtual goods model it's no surprise rival Sony has taken notice and followed suit. Its PlayStation Network service has offered free multiplayer gaming to all console owners since the beginning, but at its E3 press conference last month, the company announced a new subscription plan dubbed PlayStation Plus offering premium content and services for a yearly $50 fee. Online revenue is crucial for both companies because sales of consoles themselves barely make up for the cost of building the hardware.

Tech Tip of the Week: Buying a Budget PC: DIY vs. OEM

We are taking another look at the market, but this time focusing on sub-$500 desktops as we compare our Budget Box with two similarly outfitted machines from Dell and HP.

Before getting started, we have to admit that going into this we thought our Budget Box would have a hard time competing with the subsidized bloatware-infested desktops peddled by massive system builders. As it turns out, that's not the case at all.

In a previous article, we compared the value of pre-assembled, performance-grade desktops from popular vendors to the DIY Enthusiast's PC recommended in our buying guide. That research left us with the same conclusion hardware buffs have harped on for years: getting your hands dirty results in cash savings as well as some higher quality components.

Hitachi unveils LifeStudio external storage solutions

All of the media is then displayed on a "3D visual wall" that should make it easier to find and organize files. The software also allows users to access online TV from certain content providers, and can be set up to enable automatic backups. On top of all this, Hitachi is throwing in 3GB of online storage with every drive.

This can be bumped to 250GB for $49 per year and all the content will be accessible from anywhere through a browser or iOS app -- on both free and paid versions. Hitachi has unveiled a new range of external hard drives that do a little more than providing users with large storage capacities. Available in both desktop and mobile versions, the new LifeStudio drives come loaded with software from Cooliris to help users manage their "digital mess" by pulling together all of the videos, photos, music and documents it can find in local storage, as well as integrating photos from your Facebook, Flickr and Picasa accounts.

Besides software there are also some unique aspects to the series design. The Mobile range comes in 250GB, 320GB and 500GB capacity points with a detachable 2.5-inch drive that fits comfortably into the cradle, while on the desktop side there are 500GB, 1TB and 2TB variants.

There are 'Plus' models for the larger two capacities in each class, featuring a USB stick magnetically mounted on a docking station that can sync with the main drive to take your data on the road.The USB stick is essentially a microSD reader and comes with a 4GB microSD card as its storage, but you can change this card to upgrade the storage to up to 32GB. Other than these features, the LifeStudio family comes pre-formatted using the FAT32 file system out of the box to fully support both PCs and Macs and connects to your system via a USB 2.0 interface -- there's no support for USB 3.0, eSATA or FireWire, unfortunately. Both the desktop and mobile solutions are available now ranging in price from $80 to $220, depending on features and storage capacity.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Latest in Smartphones: Third Quarter 2010

Whether you are focused on business and productivity, or are looking for something designed with multimedia and entertainment in mind, there are so many new smartphones being released week in and week out that it's hard to keep track of what's hot anymore.

Since hardware exclusivity agreements are all too common these days, it's possible the phone you want won't be available on the network you're on. Nevertheless, we've compiled a list with some of the best options currently out there and a quick glance of what's coming soon. Our selection covers every major U.S. carrier and lists devices according to their release date.

From phones in the Palm and BlackBerry catalogs that emphasize push connectivity and QWERTY keyboards for easier typing, to the popular iPhone and the latest breed of Android-powered devices that have flooded the market as of late, with its sheer number of available apps that can greatly extend the phones' functionality.

Mozilla officially releases Firefox 4 Beta 1

For a more in-depth rundown of the latest build, have a look at the online release notes – or just download it now and see the changes firsthand. Oh, and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments. Like us, we know many of you are pulling for Firefox 4's success, because things just haven't been right performance-wise since version 3.5.

•New Add-Ons Manager: gives you more space to manage your Add-Ons, Themes and Plugins. Customizing your browser has never been easier!
•HD Video: Watch hardware-accelerated, super-smooth, HD-quality HTML5 video on YouTube using the new WebM format.
•Privacy improvements: Mozilla always puts privacy first, and this latest beta fixes flaws in some Web standards that could expose your browser history.
•Crash Protection: Experience uninterrupted browsing (now available on all platforms) – when a plugin crashes or freezes, you can resume browsing by simply refreshing the page.
•Performance: We know that performance is important. In this version, we focused on improving responsiveness at start-up and during page loads. This is just the beginning for performance improvements in Firefox 4.

Mozilla has officially released the first of what will be many betas for Firefox 4. The organization published the Firefox 4 Beta 1 candidate build just last week, so if you are already running that version, this probably won't bring any significant changes. Anyone running the current stable build (3.6.6) is in for a surprise, though. Here are some of Firefox 4's highlights:

Aluminum-clad Asus netbooks pop up for preorder

The aluminum-body Asus netbooks that leaked back in March are finally circling the landing strip. All three are available for preorder via online retailer Excaliber PC with an estimated ship date of July 29.

The Eee PC 1015PED is the least expensive at $349 and features a 10.1-inch 1024x600 display, a 1.66GHz Intel Atom N455 processor, 1GB of DDR3 RAM, 250GB of storage, 802.11n and Bluetooth 3.0 connectivity, a six-cell battery with up to 10 hours of life, and Windows 7 Starter.The pricier systems don't deviate far from that course. The 1018P has a gig of DDR2 RAM instead of DDR3 and drops from a 48W/h battery to 44W/h. In it's favor, the system packs a trio of USB 3.0 ports and it's a third of a pound lighter in the same form factor (2.43lbs versus 2.76lbs). Meanwhile, the 1016P drops the USB 3.0 ports and picks up 2GB of DDR3 RAM, Windows 7 Professional, the heftier 48W/h battery, and weighs the most at 2.81lbs.

Blizzard forums to display users' real names

Real ID is a feature of the new service that allows players to communicate with each other over different servers and games. The change will reportedly promote constructive conversations and help the Blizzard community connect in ways that weren't possible before. But this could also alienate many good forum users who simply don't feel comfortable linking their comments to their real identities -- thus bringing forum participation down.

While this is a departure from the more traditional approach of assigning forum moderators to make sure the conversation remains civilized and on-topic, it's certainly not the first time something like this has been attempted to cut down on trolling. Several high profile blogs and newspapers have opted to turn off comments altogether, while others, like the Wall Street Journal in particular, currently require commenters to use their real names.

Blizzard Entertainment will be making a major change to its forums later this month. Starting with the launch of the new StarCraft II community site before the game's launch on July 27, anyone posting or replying to a post on official Blizzard forums will be doing so using their Real ID -- which is the first and last name on each user's account. Although some may see it as an invasion of their privacy, the idea, according to the developer, is to remove the veil of anonymity typical to online dialogue which often leads to "flame wars, trolling and other unpleasantness."

Sure, there could be some privacy concerns involved, but then again you always have the option of staying out of the conversation. What do you think? Will Blizzard's move really bring players together and encourage thoughtful dialogue between them or will this simply make the forum quieter and more inhibited?

White PS3 Slim hits Japan in July, Move bundles announced

With the Xbox 360 recently going 'slim' and swapping its original white color to black, Sony has decided to do just the opposite and announced a white version of its console. The new PlayStation 3 hardware will be launched in Japan on July 29 and will bring with it an expansion in the hard drive sizes offered -- rather than 120GB and 250GB models, the PlayStation 3 Slim will be available with 160GB or 320GB capacities.

The official launch lineup is comprised of almost entirely Sony-published titles -- EyePet, Sports Champion, Beat Sketch, among others and will be followed by several third party games later in November, December and into 2011. Current owners of Resident Evil Gold Edition will also be able to upgrade to motion control support via a free update that's scheduled for release in mid September -- a pack with the game, camera and controller will also be available.

The 160GB hard drive model will cost approximately $340 while the larger, 320GB version which can also be ordered in black will cost $400. Sony has not yet announced any plans to update its product line with the larger hard drive sizes or new color option outside of Japan, but a worldwide launch is possible depending on public demand. The company also provided an updated list with Move's upcoming software lineup and hardware bundles for the motion-controller.