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Computing the quest for ultimate power

After years of relentlessly rising processor speeds, we seem to have hit a silicon ceiling at last. Moore’s the pity.

The chip giants are thinking their way around the slowdown by adding more processors to the same CPU die, which is great news for multitasking users – but do we really need more power?

A glance at one of the most talked-about PCs on the market suggests otherwise. With a lowly 900MHz Intel Celeron to keep things ticking, the Asus Eee PC 900 is no power machine – it won’t play high-definition video or 3D games, and would probably choke on the more bloated office applications out there. But for the light duties of email, web browsing, word processing and webchatting, it’s more than quick enough to keep you happy. We tested the latest 9in screen model, equipped with a Linux operating system. Watch this space to see how the same machine copes with Windows XP.

Elsewhere, high-end gaming systems such as Cube247's Leonis ST Xtreme are pushing beyond dual-core in their quest for processing power. In our charts, you'll find new entries for the best PC systems under £500 – including the surprise appearance of a quad-core model from CyberPower. (Keep your eyes peeled for our July issue - on sale 15 May - for our review.) Some day we may look back nostalgically at a time when PCs had ‘only’ four cores, but right now this approaches the state of the art in consumer computing, with benefits felt by anyone who simply wants to play a film while running a virus scan, burning a disc, running a webcam and touching up some photographs. As we tend to multitask ourselves, it’s reassuring to know that our computers are finally keeping up.

At the eyeball end of all that tasking, the monitor has a big responsibility for keeping our computing experience involving. We’re feeding these poor devices more and more information these days, including rich multimedia and fast-moving frames. Yet the LCD monitors that have all but taken over the display market are the poor relations, in performance terms, of the fat CRTs that today’s manufacturers can’t give away.

But there’s hope for LCDs. One solution is to use Samsung’s Super Patterned Vertical Alignment (S-PVA) technology to produce a colour gamut that compares to old-school tubes. (Read our Samsung 305T 30in monitor review.) Such monitors can provide realistic colour and useful viewing angles.

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