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Intel, Qualcomm, Samsung, NVIDIA: Who's the Fastest of Them All?


Making the speediest devices doesn't always translate into market success.

The Fastest Graphics Processor

Within the desktop consumer graphics processors field, we have two distinctive leaders: NVIDIA GTX 690 and AMD Radeon 7990.

However, it's hard to tell which processor has an edge. Real-life game performance tests show a draw, though the outcomes depend heavily on which benchmarks and games you use for testing. A number of tests portray GTX690 in the lead instead.

And if you're looking for serious graphics application usage rather than gaming, perhaps you should take a look at different models instead -- something like the recently announced NVIDIA Quadro K6000, which is expected to hit the market in the fall. NVIDIA has dubbed it "the fastest and most capable GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) ever built."

The Fastest Hard Drive

The consumer hard drive segment, once indisputably dominated by "conventional" hard drives based on magnetic technologies, is now rapidly losing ground to solid-state drive (SSD) counterparts that have no moving parts and offer a drastic performance boost. While still somewhat expensive in price-per-megabyte terms, SSD should be the first choice for consumers seeking high speeds.

Samsung 840 PRO SSD in a retail box. Photo courtesy of Samsung Electronics.

And we do have a clear leader in this category: the Samsung SSD 840 Pro series. That said, the Samsung 840 EVO is a very close second, and OCZ's (NASDAQ:OCZ) Vertex 450 is slightly faster in terms of writing speed.

The Fastest Connection

What's the fastest interface to connect peripherals? At the consumer level, Intel's Thunderbolt takes that title, offering a blazing 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) throughput in both directions. That kind of speed allows users to transfer an entire HD movie in less than 30 seconds. The throughput is two times faster than the 5 Gbps that USB 3.0 delivers, and that gap is set to increase again when the Thunderbolt 2 -- which will be double the current speed at 20 Gbps -- arrives next year.

The latest USB 3.1 specs released indicate that the next iteration of the transfer technology will run at speeds of 10 Gbps. By the time it is available on the markets, it will be outpaced by Thunderbolt 2.

One of the biggest Thunderbolt advocates is Apple; the company uses the interface in most of its new products, including the MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, and Mac Pro. However, most of the other big device makers are cautious, offering Thunderbolt only in top-tier models. Acer (TPE:2353) even dropped it recently, saying that it will focus on USB, which is far more commoditized and pervasive already.

But while the current USB 3.0 performance is certainly more than enough for most common user needs, Thunderbolt might soon become the more popular choice as prices go down and as the market is increasingly filled with more bandwidth-hungry devices.
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