Don't Forward Hoaxes

Hoaxes are chain letters telling interesting (sometimes funny, often scaring) stories of computer viruses, something for free (even money), new laws and much more. They all have one thing in common: they are not true.
Don't Forward Hoaxes

This is why you should

not forward such a story unless you have investigated it yourself.

You will

irritate those that do not spot the hoax and
they will probably pass it on, causing more irritation.

Those that identify the hoax will likely send you a message notifying you that you passed on an urban legend.

If you know a message is a hoax but have a specific reason to forward it nevertheless (for scientific purposes, for example), you might want to include your reason with the message.


4 Ways to Secure Your Facebook Account

Are you afraid that somebody will hack your Facebook Accounts? If you run a business from Facebook that will be a very serious problem.
Here are some tips to secure your Facebook accounts:

1. Be Paranoid
Sometimes be paranoid is not bad at all. Especially if it is about security. Don't click any links offered to you before you know exactly where the link will take you.
There are some services that will short url. Unfortunately they sort all kind of url, including the bad ones. If you got url like "" do you know what kind of website you will be taken?

Always ask your friend about the url given to you. There are posibilities that your friend didn't send the link but somebody hacked his account or he add some malicious Facebook application that send the link.

2. Leave No Trace
If you are using public internet facility, always leave no trace when you left the internet facility. You should logoff from Facebook and also clear the browser cookies and history.
In Firefox you can use Private Browsing mode in Tools-Start Private Browsing menu. You can also press Control-Shift-Del to clear browser history and cookies.
The easiest way to clear your tracks is with CCleaner.

3. Trust No Email
Hacker can easily send an email to you and pretend that the sender is Facebook. They can ask you to enter some dangerous links. Facebook don't need to send you email to make you entering your login and password.
You should only enter Facebook with or or

4. Use Crazy-and-Cannot-Be-Guessed Password
There were times that "123" or "abc" is strong enough for a password. But you cannot use that kind of password now. Hacker can use dictionary to guess your password. If dictionary fails they can "brute force attack" your password. The "brute force attack" is guessing every single letter from your password until it revealed.
Facebook has increased its security so hacker cannot "brute force attack" your password because if the password they entered is wrong for a few times your account is locked.
The easies way to generate and store unique password like "asDf823lazaAdsj3" is using KeePass.

Have a safe Facebook sessions!


The Asus Essentio CM5571-BR003 Preview

The Asus Essentio CM5571-BR003 came with low price. It's only $509 on the market.

With its glossy black midtower The Asus Essentio is just like its competitors. Bundled with Windows 7 Home Premium (64 bit).

The CPU is 2.7GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400. The memory is 6GB of 1,333MHz DDR3.
Too bad this Asus Essentio only have 128MB of shared Intel GMA 3100 graphics chip. While the hard drive is 750GB 7,200 rpm.

On the front view you can find a dual-layer DVD burner. This desktop also have HDMI and optical S/PDIF audio jack. You will also get USB 2.0 ports.
Too bad it don't have wifi adapter. In this early years, wifi adapter is a must.

With low price. Asus Essentio consume lower power than its competitors.

If you need desktop with average performance and consume low power, Asus Essentio CM5571-BR003 is for you.

Asus Essentio CM5571-BR003
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.7GHz Intel Pentium Dual Core E5400; 6GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 128MB (shared) Intel GMA X4500 integrated graphics chip, 750GB 7,200 rpm Seagate shard drive

See more Asus Essentio CM5571-BR003 pictures here.


iBuypower Chimera AM3 SE

Reviewed by: Bill O’Brien
Review Date: August 2009

ComputerShopper-In the world of PC enclosures, black has become the new beige. It’s getting increasingly difficult to distinguish one somber desktop-PC box from another—unless, of course, you’re a company like iBuypower. It has packaged its Chimera AM3 gaming PC in a black NZXT Guardian 921 case, featuring slits and slots to allow blue light to seep out from the inside. Furthermore, it has redubbed the case "Guardian Inferno," after applying enough yellow and orange flames to make a 1950s hot rodder green with envy. And those flames, though perhaps a cliché, are no exaggeration. This is one hot gaming system.

The right-opening cover might be a problem if you position your PC to your left. Likewise, the "front-mounted" ports are actually side-mounted and will be tricky to reach.

The base model in the Chimera series starts life at $999; our test version (dubbed the "Chimera AM3 SE") tipped the scales at $400 more: $1,399. The added dollars brought us a 3.2GHz AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition processor with an Asetek liquid cooling system on a Gigabyte GA-MA790XT-UD4P motherboard. (That’s well above the base model's Phenom II X4 910 chip and its air-cooled heatsink.) Though 4GB of Corsair DDR3 memory comes standard-issue on both models, our test unit came with faster 1,600MHz memory, as opposed to the 1,333MHz variety in the base model. We also got a 50-watt bump up from the base 700-watt power supply, plus an upgrade from a 500GB hard drive to a 1TB drive. The real power upgrade, however, was the substitution of the standard 512MB video card (an ATI Radeon HD 4870) for a pair of 1GB Radeon HD 4890 cards configured in a CrossFireX dual-card arrangement. (For reference, you can read a review of a recent graphics card we tested based on the Radeon HD 4890 graphics processor, the Asus EAH4890.)

Sounds like a potent gaming platform? It sure is. While the Chimera’s 64-bit PCMark Vantage score (6,788) wasn’t quite up to the 7,200 mark set by the super-value Gateway FX6801-03 we recently tested, it's still among the top performers we've seen on that test, period. (The PCMark Vantage test measures general PC-application performance.) Another interesting set of results: On our 3DMark Vantage test, which measures 3D-graphics performance, the Chimera rang up an impressive score of 13,965 at 1,280x1,024 resolution, but the numbers that really amazed us were its scores running at 1,680x1,050 (10,885) and 1,920x1,200 (8,234). Those numbers are simply exceptional for a system in this price range.

In our real-world gaming tests, the Chimera proved itself more than able. In our testing with the game Company of Heroes, the Chimera consistently scored above 50 frames per second (fps), even at a sky-high screen resolution of 2,560x1,600. That’s a rarity since the advent of DirectX 10. It also posted scores in excess of 50fps, under both DirectX 9 and 10 and at all tested resolutions, in our tests with the much more recent (and demanding) game Far Cry 2. Considering that we tested Far Cry 2 at resolutions all the way up to 2,560x1,600, you'll have to try pretty hard (with the help of a very big monitor) make the Chimera break a sweat with most recent games.

The Chimera packs a full complement of FireWire and USB ports on its back panel.

Clearly, this Chimera has gaming well in hand for most mainstream gamers. It's also well-equipped for entertainment use. A 22x DVD burner comes in the base model, but iBuypower bumped our test unit's optical drive up to an LG GGC-H20L Super-Multi Blu-ray Drive that reads both Blu-ray and (now-obsolete) HD DVD discs, and writes to everything else. Officially, LG Electronics lists this particular drive as discontinued, but iBuypower assured us that it has a quantity on hand. Regardless, several Blu-ray-reader alternatives (as well as pricier Blu-ray burners) are available via iBuypower's Web-site configurator. None, however, is a Blu-ray/HD DVD combo unit like this one.

Naturally, the Blu-ray experience would be diminished without quality audio to back it up. To handle that, the motherboard supports eight-channel audio through both analog and the usual digital connections. (iBuypower can supply you with an HD-capable LCD monitor and a multichannel speaker set to complete the package, but neither came standard with our test unit.) The Chimera also has a 12-format card reader, so you can easily transfer your digital-camera photos onto the system (or do quick offline backups to flash cards, now that their prices have plummeted).

As tested (and even in its $999 base configuration, for that matter), the Chimera AM3 is a well-stocked system. If you think you'll need to augment the hardware down the line, though, you certainly can. You'll find room inside for three more front-facing drives (via two 5.25-inch bays and one 3.5-inch bay), as well as an additional internal hard drive. No internal card expansion is possible, though, due to the wide loads of the two Radeon HD 4890 graphics cards. Two memory sockets are open, and, in total, the motherboard supports up to 16GB of DDR3. Also, between what you’ll find on the side of the front panel and the rear of the case, you have 10 USB ports, three FireWire ports, and a pair of external Serial ATA (eSATA) ports for external expansion. That mix should cover most reasonable eventualities.

iBuypower has done a clean build inside the Chimera. Slot access is nil due to the dual graphics cards, but drive-bay and memory-socket expansion is available.

But wait—we did find one flaw! Most computer cases we've seen that sport front doors open from right to left. (That’s because most of us park our PCs on the left side of our desks.) The Guardian Inferno case bucks the trend by opening from left to right. Also, the front-panel ports are distributed along the left edge of the front panel, not on the front face itself. If you do typically stash your PC on your left, those ports will be out of sight and a bit tricky to access.

We can’t attest that the Chimera AM3 SE is an utterly extreme gaming platform—it’s not quite that. But for most mainstream and moderately serious gamers who aren't blasting away at stratospheric resolutions on a 30-inch monitor, it will do the job very nicely at a price nowhere near that of yesterday's $4,000 megasystems. And if you think of this PC in terms of iBuypower’s now-almost-unheard-of warranty (the company covers the system for three full years), it’s one of the best all-around desktops you’re likely to find for $466 per annum.
Price (at time of review): $1,399 (direct, as tested)

Superb gaming performance for the price; more-than-ample external expansion; three-year warrantyKey Specs
Processor: 3.2GHz AMD Phenom II X4 955 Black Edition
Memory: 4GB DDR3
Storage: 1TB hard drive
Optical Drive: Blu-ray/HD DVD reader/DVD±RW burner combo
Monitor: None
Graphics: Two ATI Radeon HD 4890 cards (1GB each, CrossFireX)
Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium (64-bit)

No PCI Express- or PCI-slot expansion possible; awkward to access side-mounted ports

Editors' Take
The Chimera’s case may be sheer eye candy, but its gaming performance lives up to the flames. All but the most extreme gamers will find superior value in this PC.


Philips Streamium NP2500 Review

CNET editors' review

* Reviewed by:
Matthew Moskovciak
* Edited by:
John P. Falcone
* Reviewed on: 07/31/2009
* Released on: 08/15/2008

Digital audio streamers generally come two ways: cheap solutions like the Airport Express that lack convenience, or expensive systems like Sonos that put all your music at your fingertips. Philips has always tried to find a middle ground; last year's NP1100 offered much of the performance of the Squeezebox Classic for considerably less. The NP2500 is Philips' successor to the NP1100 (although the NP1100 is still available for sale) and it offers several improvements, most notably more file format support, including audiophile-friendly FLAC and Ogg Vorbis. The biggest change is obviously the NP2500's color LCD screen, but we found it a bit of a mixed-bag in practice; we loved the album art eye candy, but browsing the 3.5-inch screen from across the room is a pain. If you can live with its quirks, the NP2500 offers much of the functionality of the Squeezebox Classic for less money and in a pretty package, but die-hard music fans looking for a wider variety of online audio service offerings will prefer the Squeezebox's perks despite its Spartan design.

The NP2500 has a long, 9.9-inch rectangular shape and positioned right in the middle is a 3.5-inch color LCD screen. The screen is capable of displaying a couple lines of text, album art, and a full graphical user interface. It's a reasonable size on its own, but it looks comically small in the midst of the faceplate. The design makes more sense viewed in the full Streamium product line; the NP2500 essentially uses the step-up NP2900's design, with the speakers removed.

Still, the NP2500 would greatly benefit if the screen filled up more of the faceplate. Yes, it's easy to navigate if you're close to the unit, but the NP2500 is designed to be connected to a separate stereo or home theater system. If you're sitting on the couch, 8 feet away from the NP2500, the screen is tiny. Competing products like the Squeezebox Duet and the Sonos BU250 get around the problem with a remote that features an LCD screen, but those systems are more expensive. Meanwhile, the Apple TV is a more direct competitor that lets you browse your music collection using either the HDTV screen or via the Remote app available for the iPhone/iPod Touch. The Squeezebox Classic has a similar design, but it's text-only and is easier to read from afar.

The only buttons on the NP2500 are located on the top of the unit, and there are only four of them: power, volume up and down, and mute. That means you can't navigate your music collection using the controls on the unit; instead you have to use the remote. We would have at least liked a clickable wheel on the unit for times when the remote goes missing, or when you're standing right over the unit.

User interface and setup
The basic user interface is well-laid out, with simple menu options like Music, Internet Radio, Rhapsody, and Aux showing up on the home menu. When you start playing a song, the artist and song information show up on the display, with the album art in the background. We're meticulous about updating our album art and it was a treat to see the NP2500 automatically display it when it started playing our tracks. Album art is also available on Rhapsody tracks.

Unlike its predecessor, the NP1100, the NP2500 sports a color screen capable of showing album art.

While the NP2500 zips through the standard menus quickly, it's not quite as quick to sort through a large library of music. The competing Squeezebox Classic is much more responsive in this regard, where as the NP2500 chugs along at a slower--sometimes frustrating--speed, even when its SuperScroll function kicks in. It's not unbearable, but a bit more speed would really help the NP2500 with large libraries.

The NP2500 can feel a little sluggish when browsing through large music libraries.

As mentioned before, the only way to navigate the NP2500 is by using the included remote. It's a full-size clicker, which we like, but we did run into some issues. For example, the directional pad doesn't work exactly as you'd expect it to. Counterintuitively, the right and left directions won't move you right and left in the menus; you need to press "OK" to move right and the back button to move left. We got used to it, but occasionally we'd revert back to the more intuitive controls. Some people may also be annoyed that there's no option to fast-forward or rewind, which can be a minor annoyance, especially on podcasts. On the other hand, the remote does a good job of separating important functions like the volume rocker and playback controls, while the full number pad makes it easier to enter in search terms.

Like all network music players these days, the NP2500 can tune in to the thousands of free Internet radio stations, instead of the standard AM/FM fare. If you can't stand what's available on AM/FM (neither can we) and don't want to pay for satellite radio (neither do we), there are plenty of great stations available online for just about everybody. Philips doesn't disclose what service populates its listings, but we found plenty of quality stations across several genres. If your favorite station isn't listed, you can register on Philips' Web site and add it yourself.

The NP2500 also offers access to the premium streaming-music service Rhapsody, which is a subscription service ($13 a month). Rhapsody allows you unlimited streaming from its gigantic catalog of music. We're fans of the service and the NP2500's integration is nicely done. All the albums you've stored in your library are available and you can search for new music, although it's a bit tedious with the remote. With the subscription cost, Rhapsody certainly isn't for everyone, but you can take advantage of the 30-day free trial to see if it's worth it for you.

In addition to media streamed off the Internet, the NP2500 is capable of streaming media off of a connected PC. The NP2500 comes with TwonkyServer software included, and our experience setting it up was fairly painless, which is quite a feat for a network music player. Our testing scenario included a networked-attached storage drive filled with music, including FLAC and OGG files, and we were easily able to point the TwonkyServer software at the applicable folders to create our music library.

Between Internet radio, Rhapsody, and your own music collection, the NP2500 can deliver tons of music options, but it's worth pointing out that the competing Squeezebox Classic has even more functionality. In addition to the NP2500's features, the Boom adds Pandora,, Slacker, Live Music Archive, and MP3Tunes functionality. That might be overkill for most people, but hard-core music enthusiasts may prefer the Squeezebox's incredible array of options.

The included ports cover all the bases, including an auxiliary input to connect a portable audio player.

Around the back of the unit, the NP2500 offers up a few inputs and outputs if you want to use it with other equipment. There's a headphone jack for late-night listening, as well as a coaxial digital-audio output to connect to an AV receiver. There's a stereo-analog auxiliary input, which consists of two RCA jacks, rather than the more common minijack input. Rounding out the connectivity is an Ethernet jack.

The NP2500 is designed to be used with a separate audio system; how good the NP2500 will mostly depend on the rest of your components and the quality of the digital audio you're feeding it. Philips does include the "Full Sound" sound-processing mode, which purportedly "restores" the lost information from compressed music, but we found that it mostly boosted the bass. DBB (Dynamic Bass Boost) is another bass-boosting option, and we turned it off, too.

Apart from sound quality, we did run into a couple snags that dampened our experience a bit. The NP2500 isn't nearly as good as the Squeezebox Classic at playing back albums seamlessly (without gaps between tracks), on Rhapsody tracks, or songs from your PC. That might not matter to most listeners, but if you're listening to "Abbey Road" and there's a 3-second gap between "Sun King," "Mean Mr. Mustard," and "Polythene Pam," it can really take you out of the moment. Our other issue was that we had some difficulty getting the included TwonkyVision software to play back our albums in the correct running order. Upgrading to the latest version of TwonkyServer fixed the problem and luckily the included software worked with the updated software. Lastly, the NP2500 froze up on us a few times, sometimes taking a few minutes to finally wake up, but twice requiring us to unplug it and plug it back in. It didn't happen enough to really frustrate us, but we're hoping Philips updates the firmware to iron out some of these occasional hang-ups.

Product summary

The good: Digital audio streamer; unique color screen that displays album art; full Rhapsody integration; provides access to thousands of Internet radio stations; stylish exterior design; easy setup to stream music from connected PCs; less expensive than competitors.

The bad: Small screen difficult to see across room; interface can get sluggish with large music libraries; slight delay between tracks; no support for Pandora,, or Slacker; included remote occasionally confusing.

The bottom line: The Philips NP2500 offers many of the features available on more-expensive digital audio streamers for less money and has an attractive color display, but it's hard to see from a distance and playback has some occasional hiccups.

Specifications: Device type: Network audio player See full specs

Price range: $195.70 - $209.86


Acoustic Research ARIR200 Internet Radio

Product summary

The good: Wi-Fi radio with an alarm clock design; Slacker streaming; graphical weather updates; USB port for playing MP3, WMA, and Real Audio files; AM/FM tuner; can record Internet radio and AM/FM content to internal memory; relatively inexpensive.

The bad: Annoying hiss audible when music isn't playing; connectivity seems less reliable than other radios; no dual-alarm functionality; has a cheap look and feel.

The bottom line: The Acoustic Research ARIR200 offers lots of unique features with an alarm clock-friendly design, but it has a few quirks and shortcomings that keep us from wholeheartedly recommending it.

Specifications: Product type: Network audio player / clock radio / digital player ; Sound output mode: Stereo ; Amplifier total output power: 4 Watt ; See full specs

Price range: $96.37 - $114.99 check prices
CNET editors' review

* Reviewed by:
Matthew Moskovciak
* Edited by:
John P. Falcone
* Reviewed on: 07/27/2009

Wi-Fi radios would seem to be a perfect bedside companion, but surprisingly few of them are designed to work as an alarm clock. The Acoustic Research ARIR200 is one of few that is designed to (at least try to) wake you up in the morning, with a big snooze button on top and easy access to the alarm via buttons on the top. In addition, the ARIR200 is packed with many features not seen even on more expensive radios, including the ability to record stations to its internal memory, Slacker streaming, and weather updates--all for a very reasonable street price of about $100. So why the half-hearted praise? Unfortunately we ran into some connectivity problems (although only at the office) and the ARIR200 tends to emit a hissing sound that's annoying even at this price. We were also disappointed that Acoustic Research didn't throw in dual alarm functionality, especially because it's available on the competing Aluratek Internet Radio. The Acoustic Research ARIR200 doesn't have any deal-breaking flaws and the price is right, but a few critical improvements would have made us like it a lot more.

The exterior design of a product is always subjective, but we'd be surprised if anyone considered the ARIR200 better than average. It has an unusual trapezoidal shape that tapers toward the top, and the majority of the unit is covered in glossy black plastic that attracts fingerprints very easily. That's more of a problem than usual, since you're likely to be groping the ARIR200 in a sleepy daze to hit the snooze button. Aside from smudges, there's no denying that the ARIR200 has a "cheap" look and feel, but it's worth noting that it doesn't affect the usability of the product.

The snooze button is prominent enough that you should be able to find it, even if you're half awake.

Like the competing Aluratek Internet Radio, the ARIR200 is designed to function as
an alarm clock, rather than a Wi-Fi radio with alarm functionality as an afterthought. On top of the unit there's a big snooze button, and there's a handy "alarm" button for quickly setting the alarm. The silver wheel on the far right is for volume. We also appreciated the easy access buttons that bring up weather and change sources.

The directional pad on the front of the unit is easy to use, but we found it a little slower than knob-based navigation offered on other units.

The rest of the controls are on the front panel. Buttons line the display on both sides, with the handy home button on the upper right hand corner. Below the display is a directional pad for navigating the menus. Although the directional pad works fine, we tend to find that knob-based navigation is faster on devices like these.

The ARIR200 is technically a Wi-Fi radio, but to us its design really makes it feel more like an alarm clock with a Wi-Fi radio as a bonus. That's why we were a little disappointed that the ARIR200 only offers relatively basic alarm functionality. The best part is that you can set your alarm to go off to a variety of sources, like an Internet radio or Slacker station. However, there's no dual alarm functionality and you can't set alarms to reoccur on a specific schedule--for instance, only on the weekdays. The competing Aluratek Internet Radio offers dual alarms.

Particularly useful for an alarm clock is the ARIR200's weather feature, which uses the WeatherBug service. Press the weather button once to get today's forecast and once more to get a three-day forecast. There's a strange note in the manual that the ARIR200 comes with "complimentary four-year weather, on-demand subscription from WeatherBug." Yes, four years is a long time, but we still feel a little uneasy that the weather feature will stop working eventually, especially since we tend to use alarm clocks for decades.

Like every Wi-Fi radio, the ARIR200 can access thousands of Internet radio stations available for free online. If you can't stand what's available on AM/FM (neither can we) and don't want to pay for satellite radio (neither do we), there's plenty of great stations available online for just about everybody.

One of the unique features of the ARIR200 is its ability to record content, using its 512MB internal memory. We haven't seen this functionality on other Wi-Fi radios and perhaps for good reason; we didn't find ourselves using it very much during our testing. With so many ways to get access to music these days--from Rhapsody to LaLa to iTunes--the idea of recording songs off the radio just isn't as appealing as it was in 1980s with cassettes.

The ARIR200 is also one of the few Wi-Fi radios we've tested with access to the Slacker streaming music service. The basic service is free (after you sign up for an account) and you can choose from a large variety of genre-based radio stations. This is a contrast to the many other radios that offer Pandora; luckily, it's easy to try out both services online, so you can see which better fits your tastes.

Hanging off the back of the ARIR200 is the FM radio antenna.

Also somewhat unique on the ARIR200 is the fact that it includes both AM and FM tuners. As much as we like to rail on the current state of terrestrial radio, we actually did appreciate the functionality on the ARIR200. There are still some content that you can't get via Internet radio, most notably sports broadcasts. Likewise, if your Internet connection is flaky, you'll still be able to get your local stations.

Acoustic Research also throws in an AM antenna and an Ethernet cable with the ARIR200.


There's a battery compartment on the bottom of the unit; in the event that you lose power, the batteries kick in.

The back panel contains some additional connectivity, including an Ethernet port, a headphone jack, and a USB port. The USB port can be used with USB memory drive filled with MP3, WMA, or Real Audio files; unfortunately that means songs purchased from iTunes (the AAC format) won't work. There's also a battery compartment in the bottom; the batteries act as a backup in case you lose power. If you're looking for compatibility with your iPod, Acoustic Research also offers the step-up ARIR600i ($200 list price), which adds an iPod dock to the ARIR200's feature set.

As essentially a souped-up alarm clock, we didn't have high expectations for the ARIR200's sound quality. We played through a bunch of different music styles, and while nothing wowed us, it never sounded awful either. There's very little bass and the sound isn't particularly detailed, but it's fine for casual listening in a bedroom. Overall, the sound quality was a little better than we were expecting, given the low-rent styling, but it's still nothing to get excited about.

While the sound quality is passable, we did notice that the ARIR200 emits a hissing sound in between tracks or when paused. To be fair, it's not that loud and when music is playing it covers it up, but it's hard to accept when other radios we test don't have the issue at all.

Our initial experience streaming music with the ARIR200 was disappointing. We had the ARIR200 set up in our CNET testing facilities and the ARIR200 had difficulty connecting to our network, wired or wirelessly. The few times when it actually connected to the Internet, music playback was unacceptably choppy, rarely getting more than 10 seconds into a song before buffering. Our corporate network certainly isn't exactly like a home network, but we had no issues connecting any of the other Wi-Fi radios we had on hand, not to mention other devices we had running off Wi-Fi. And the fact that the ARIR200 wouldn't connect via a wired connection was even more confusing; we've never had that problem before.

Testing the radio in a more traditional home environment was much better. We didn't run into any of the connectivity or buffering problems present in the office. That doesn't give us a definitive statement on the ARIR200's reliability, but since other radios we've tested haven't had a problem in either location, we'd at least make sure you have the option to return the ARIR200 in case it doesn't work for you.


Turbo.264 HD

USB dongle speeds encoding but some quality lost in the process

by Christopher Breen,

Today’s Macs are miracles of speed and efficiency, but there are particular tasks that can take seemingly forever. One of those tasks is encoding and converting video. A couple of years ago, Elgato offered a tool to help strip some time from this process in the form of its Turbo.264, a USB dongle that took over much of the burden of encoding QuickTime video.

Earlier this year, Elgato released the Turbo.264’s more-powerful sibling, the Intel-only $150 Turbo.264 HD. Like the original Turbo.264, the HD model is designed to speed up video encoding. In addition, it speeds the process of converting video directly from AVCHD HD camcorders, lets you trim video clips before converting them, allows you to combine multiple clips into a single clip, and outputs video to HD formats including YouTube HD, 720p, and 1080p. And it’s faster on both slow and more-powerful Macs.

To the test

The proof is in the pudding and one of the main ingredients in this pudding is how long it takes to convert video with and without the Turbo.264 HD. To find out I tested the device on both a current 2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Mac mini (with 4GB of RAM) and an older 2 x 2.66GHz Dual Core Mac Pro (with 8GB of RAM and an NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT graphics card).

I performed two tests. In the first I used RipIt ([Image]) to convert the DVD of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to an unprotected Video_TS folder. I then converting the main feature from that folder to a single Apple TV-compatible movie with the Turbo.264 HD application. To compare its performance to an unaccelerated conversion, I used HandBrake (which doesn’t take advantage of the Turbo.H264 HD) to convert the Video_TS folder again.

I also attached a Sony HDR-SR11 ([Image]) AVCHD to each computer and imported a 6 minute and 44 second clip. I first used the Turbo.264 HD application to import the clip and convert it to the Apple TV ([Image]) format. I then imported the clip using iMovie ’09 ([Image]) and then employed iMovie’s Share command to save the movie in the large, Apple TV-compatible format.
Timing is everything

In regard to speed, the Turbo.264 HD performed admirably in each test. In the DVD tests, the Turbo.264 HD gave a nice boost to the both the Mac mini and Mac Pro. On the mini it took 36 minutes and 13 seconds to convert the movie. The unaccelerated HandBrake performed the same job in 2 hours and 13 minutes. The Mac Pro, with its extra oomph, helped HandBrake, but not enough to best the Turbo’s performance. On that Mac the Turbo converted the movie in 35 minutes and 40 seconds. HandBrake took 57 minutes and 10 seconds.

Pulling a movie clip from an AVCHD camcorder and converting it to an Apple TV-friendly format was also dramatically faster with the Turbo.264 HD. On the Mac mini, I was able to convert the test clip in 9 minutes and 29 seconds. It took iMovie ’09 10 minutes and 7 seconds just to import the clip from the camera. It took another 17 minutes and 5 seconds to export it. With the Mac Pro, importing the clip into iMovie ’09 was similarly slow—6 minutes and 28 seconds to import the clip and then 9 minutes and 36 seconds to export it. The entire job was accomplished by the Turbo.264 HD in just 5 minutes and 12 seconds on the Mac Pro.
The compromises

Regrettably, you pay a price for this speed—image quality. When comparing the videos created with HandBrake, iMovie, and the Turbo.264 HD application, the Turbo videos had more visible artifacts. Not jarring, “Aack, my eyes bleed!” artifacts, but noticeable if you look for them. Specifically, these were evidenced as jagged lines and video that looked a little soft.

Within the Turbo.264 HD application you have the option to create custom settings to deal with this kind of thing, but it’s a problematic solution for a couple of reasons. First, some Mac users may have no idea how to effectively tweak an overscan or data rate setting (much less a more advanced setting such as H.264 Profile, GOP Size, or Picture Coding). Secondly, when you tweak those settings it’s possible that the results won’t play on the intended device—set a video’s data rate too high, for example, and an Apple TV will refuse to play it.

And honestly, you shouldn’t have to go through the bother. Even more than Handbrake, the Turbo.264 HD is designed to be a plug-and-play solution. What comes out of it should be great looking video. Unfortunately, it doesn’t currently meet that standard.

The Turbo's results (left) are less crisp than what you get from a tool such as HandBrake (right). Note that these images are blown up 2x so the quality appears worse than it is.

Additionally, the Turbo.264 software wasn’t completely robust. There were times when the software failed to recognize that the dongle was plugged in—there one minute and gone the next. Plugging it back in solved the problem. And the current-as-I-write-this version, 1.0.2, got hung up when attempting to encode the Harry Potter Video_TS folder on the Mac Pro (it had no complaints on the Mac mini). Installing a beta 1.0.2+ version solved the problem.
Macworld’s buying advice

If you own an Intel Mac and routinely encode QuickTime-compatible videos or import clips from an AVCHD video camera, have just about had it with the time it takes to do the job, and are willing to sacrifice a small measure of quality, the Turbo.264 HD will be a worthwhile addition to your computing life, particularly if you’re using a slower Mac.

[Christopher Breen is a Macworld senior editor.]