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At a glance
New users: Click here for an important note regarding your 630i
It is very important to thoroughly test your 630i to ensure that:
Both new and refurbished 630is from Dell can, and occasionally do, arrive with problems, so it's important to check it all out thoroughly. The reason for this is that you only have 21 days from your Sales Invoice date in which to return your system. If anything doesn't seem right, don't hesitate to (first of all) call Dell and notify them of the problem(s), and then also let us know. Unfortunately, some 630is are just lemons, meaning that no matter how much hardware is repeatedly replaced or swapped out, crashes will still happen. If this describes your situation, and you're still within the 21-day return period (U.S.A.) or the 7-day return period (U.K.) from the date of your Sales Invoice, it is highly recommended that you contact Dell and arrange to have your system returned or get a full monetary refund.
The key difference/benefit in returning a system as opposed to having parts constantly replaced is simply getting rid of a lemon. There have been a number of 630i users (some examples here) whose systems were literally fraught with BSOD or other errors regardless of how many components were replaced...until they got a completely different 630i. Aside from poltergeists, no-one can explain how replacing all the components isn't successful, and a brand-new unit is--but it does work.
In summary, Dell continues to deny the facts in regards to their false advertising, and refuses to correct the majority of issues inherent in the 630i. Previously available 630i system return refunds for the following three issues only (LightFX 2.0, Dell-modified Nvidia 650i SLI chipset/motherboard, and No SLI-Ready memory support) after the normal 21-day return period (U.S.A.) or the 7-day return period (U.K.) expired as of October 15, 2008.
On August 20, 2008, Dell responded through Liaison Chris Mixon to some of the 630i Issues raised here. Following is my personal rebuttal (PDF version) to this response. More importantly, Dell's reply does not address the bigger concerns of attitude, honesty, and integrity, which--especially to the customer--always speak the loudest.
A: Dell-modified Nvidia 650i SLI chipset/motherboard
Dell admits to
As sold: What is shipped is a Dell-modified--and more importantly, limited--version of this chipset, which does not support the following features offered, and expected by their customers in the genuine, unmodified Nvidia board as they were led to believe they were buying via the 630i sales page:
Nvidia's motherboard: capable of two PCI-E x16 slot lane configurations: user-configurable to either 16,1,1,1 lanes (one 16-lane slot in single graphics card mode) or 8,8,1,1 lanes (dual eight-lane slots in SLI mode).
Dell's motherboard: both PCI-E x16 slots are irreversibly locked in hardware to 8,8,1,1 which means that single graphics card users are only receiving half the PCI-E lanes (8 as opposed to 16) they were led to believe they were receiving when buying their system. As a result, users are left with significantly less graphics performance, especially for utilization of more advanced graphics card upgrade options and performance already on the market. As My630i.com user billybigfoot notes: "the decision to lock the PCI-E x16 slots to 8 lanes had nothing at all to do with enabling SLI/CrossfireX. The HP Blackbird has PCI-E x16 slots with 16 lanes, and it can run with SLI/CrossfireX. There was obviously some other reason for it, and only Dell will be able to answer that."
Status: The only resolution possible is a complete motherboard replacement/upgrade. No known action to resolve this problem has been taken by Dell.
Click here to toggle commentary regarding limited 8-lane PCI-E slots
My630i.com user Huttfuzz notes that:
"A card like the 8800 GT or 9800 GT has a bandwidth of about 60 GB/s.
A card like the GTX 280 has a bandwidth of 140 GB/s.
Those numbers are theorical, and tests have shown that the GTX 280 peaks at about 115 GB/s.
A PCI Express v2.0 x16 slot has a maximum bandwidth of 160 GB/s. PCI Express v1.0 x16 has 80 GB/s. So PCI Express 2.0 x8 has 80 GB/s, which is logical. Imagine it being a PCIe 1.0 x8. It would have a 40 GB/s maximum bandwidth and would seriously bottleneck even an 8800 GT / 9800 GT.
So we can conclude two things. First, the XPS 630i has two PCIe 2.0 x8 lanes, since 8800 GTs are not bottlenecked at all when you compare benchmarks with other motherboards having two PCIe v2.0 x16. Secondly, an 8800 GT is about the limit of this bus line, and anything higher than that (or a 4850--65 GB/s) would be bottlenecked by the 8x PCI express lanes on the 630i.
A link explaning the lanes. For the bandwidth of specific GFX cards, just do a quick google search (i.e.: 8800 GT bandwidth). It's discussed on many forums."
My630i.com user billybigfoot notes that:
"...the 650i board was not the best choice for the customer. Whether our board turns out to be PCIe v1.0 or 2.0 is to some extent by-the-by, if any customer wants to upgrade the GPU to a modern one they would have to consider a motherboard upgrade as well, and when you consider the licensing regulations with OEM, it would also mean a new OS purchase."
Dell Community Forums 630i user foehammer25 notes that:
"Normally, Nvidia chipset motherboards do not support CrossFireX at all. Dell had to alter the motherboard for CrossFireX to work. It is just logical that such an odd change to a 650i chipset motherboard (no 16 lane support at all), and a similarly odd breakthrough compatibility with CrossFireX on the same board, would go hand-in-hand. I honestly do not know why this is the case. Perhaps an engineer could clear that up for us."
"It's much more marketable to advertise CrossFireX compatibility than it is to brag about 16 lanes for your graphics card. I am not even saying it is a bad tradeoff for some people. But for me, I would rather have the 16 lanes available as an option for a future Nvidia product. Actually, I would rather have 2x16, but I knew beforehand that the 650i didn't support that. What I didn't know was that even with only one graphics card there is no 16-lane compatibility with the 630i system. I was scammed in that respect."
Questionable Enthusiast System Architecture (ESA)-certification
Nvidia's motherboard: Not ESA-certified.
Dell admits there is no
motherboard ESA support
650i SLI not
650i SLI not
The 630i's ESA
Dell's motherboard: Dell admits it is not ESA-certified. So why is this an issue? Two reasons:
On June 12, 2008, via an interview on crave.cnet.com, Dell Engineeer Patrick Dubois clearly stated that it is the Master I/O Board that holds the ESA architecture--NOT the 650i SLI motherboard:
"The ESA architecture is actually a separate control board. It's a separate control board that controls fans, lighting, all of the value-added features that we added in our boxes. It's a controller with firmware, its own microcontroller that controls all of those things. But it's physically a separate board, if you open the 630 or a 730, you'll see a separate board, which is actually an ESA board and it holds the ESA architecture."
Users are still encountering problems with both Dell's and Nvidia's versions of the ESA control software because of this motherboard circumvention attempt by Dell through custom hardware and firmware.
In July 2008, approximately four months after 630i sales began, Dell persuaded Nvidia to change their specification page for the nForce 650i SLI on one of the comparison charts. Yet it is the 630i system--not the motherboard--that is still listed as ESA-certified (note that it does not appear in the list of ESA-certified motherboards in the image at the far right).
Dell gets Nvidia
to change specs
after the fact
These dubious actions by Dell beg the following questions:
Status: Despite Dell's ongoing attempts to correct these problems, no fully working solution has been released to date. The only resolution possible is a complete motherboard replacement/upgrade.
Click here to toggle commentary regarding ESA-certification
Dell Community Forums 630i user foehammer25 notes that:
"...What they [Dell] will not say, is that there exists a 650i motherboard that is ESA-certified, because there isn't one. Even Dell's version of the 650i motherboard isn't ESA-certified. It is the combination of the Dell 650i and the MIO card that Dell contends is ESA "capable". The problem is, obviously, this combination doesn't work right."
"The reason why Dell chose to go with two 8x lanes for SLI was so the hardware was able to be Nvidia SLI and CrossFireX "SLI" compatible. I wondered how Dell was going to manage that feat. Now we know. They jury-rigged the motherboard so that those of us with Nvidia graphics cards cannot unleash the true potential of these retail priced graphics cards. Nowhere on Dell's website does it state that the Dell 630i is SLI and CrossFireX compatible, but we had to downgrade the motherboard to get it that way. Dell advertised the 630i as being SLI-compatible with the Nvidia 650i chipset. I expected 16 lanes if I used one graphics card, because that is the way the 650i chipset motherboards are all designed, except for Dell's version of course. Ask your engineers about this paragraph, and see what semantically twisted one-line sentence they can come up with for this."
"So now Dell does have a problem with replacing the motherboard. They can't replace it with a 680i chipset because it will not be CrossFireX compatible, unless they redesign even another motherboard. That would cost big money. So basically, Nvidia owners cannot experience the full potential of the 8800 GT graphics card because Dell decided to redesign the motherboard, intentionally making it 8,8,1,1 only, and intentionally not letting that bit of information out. However, for those of us that purchased the 8800 GT graphics card, a motherboard exchange is still possible, if Dell doesn't toy(?) with it first."
My630i owner davbow notes that ESA certification is apparently performed by Allion. When he requested more information from them regarding ESA certification for the 630i and other products, this was the reply he received on May 8, 2008:
"If you are talking about reports on the testing that NVidia paid for with Allion Test Labs, Inc., the reports are only available to authorized NVidia staff. All work done for NVidia is done under confidentiality/NDA agreements. If you have such continued interest you should contact NVidia directly and discuss your request with them."
Dell SLI ad 1
Dell SLI ad 2
BIOS option 1
BIOS option 2
BIOS option 3
Questionable SLI-Ready memory support, and memory handling problems
Nvidia's motherboard: Does not technically support SLI-Ready memory (see "The truth from Nvidia" at right).Dell's motherboard: Has problems implementing EPP settings when four sticks of SLI-Ready RAM are installed. SLI-Ready memory only works correctly when 1) less than four sticks are used, or 2) when run under a 64-bit OS, and with manually-adjusted BIOS settings.
In addition, as stated by Dell Liaison Chris Mixon, there is a significant problem with the 630i's memory handling:
"The XPS 630i will support 2GB of 800MHz Corsair Dominator Dual-Channel DDR2 SDRAM overclockable to 1066MHz. 4GB of SLI memory does not function 100% reliably because of a limitation with the 650i chipset. Because of this, Dell does not ship the XPS 630i with overclocking enabled, but customers may turn on that feature."
My630i.com user billybigfoot notes that there is a workaround for 64-bit OS users:
"As long as you are running a 64-bit OS, set your RAM to "Unlinked" in your BIOS, and you should be good to go. As you probably know, SLI RAM has EPP settings "built-in" to each chip. On other chipsets, these EPP settings are used to set the timings automatically for you. All you need to do is run CPU-Z to find the best timings (on the SPD tab) and then set them manually."Status: Other than the workaround above, the only resolution possible is a complete motherboard replacement/upgrade. No known action to resolve this problem has been taken by Dell.
Click here to toggle commentary regarding the lack of SLI-Ready memory support
My630i.com user Drange notes that:
"I would also like to point out the fact that SLI-Ready memory is not supported by this motherboard chipset either, despite the fact that the engineers have put it in the BIOS. Is that supposed to make us believe that it can be enabled while in reality it is not even a supported function of this chipset? This is yet another fine example of what Dell is promising but not delivering. No amount of software updates or BIOS tweaks will ever be able to add functionality that wasn't there in the first place. I think it's time for someone at Dell HQ to quit trying to do a PR spin on this fiasco and deliver on what was advertised."
Nvidia's motherboard: Does not natively support ATI CrossFireX (ATI's version of Nvidia's SLI).Dell's motherboard: CrossFireX configurations only work when the graphics card is one of the following that Dell has custom-modified by way of flashing the card's BIOS:
Dell Liaison Chris Mixon reiterated Dell's attitude towards 'non-Dell-approved' ATI graphics cards in CrossFireX configurations:
"Dell will not speak to non-OEM graphics cards, and we are not going to test them."
Again, as My630i.com user CROSSFIRE puts it:
"Bottom line for future readers, you must use Dell cards sold with your system to enable CrossfireX. Dell flashes the [graphics card] BIOS so CrossfireX will work with your particular system. It will not work with cards bought elsewhere."
Note, however, that Dell's proprietary drivers are not required to use a CrossFireX configuration.
Status: No solution to these restrictions exists for ATI users wanting to take advantage of a CrossFireX configuration using after-market cards. No known action to resolve this limitation has been taken by Dell.
Click here to toggle commentary regarding CrossFireX restrictions
Rampant speculation user Aivas47a notes that:
"Billy you are right, normally CrossFireX does not work on Nvidia chipsets. However, both Dell and Hewlett Packard have this deal where you can run both CrossFireX and SLI on their machines with Nvidia chipsets. It does require a special BIOS, so if you were to flash to a standard Nvidia BIOS file, my understanding is CrossFireX would no longer work (though SLI should still be fine)."
Rampant speculation user Sunny notes that:
"The Dell motherboards are basically custom to the point where they allow for both SLI and CrossFireX on the Nvidia chipset. In actual retail motherboards though, Nvidia chipsets will not support CrossFireX."
Rampant speculation user MnemonicSyntax notes that:
"I'm running a Striker Extreme with (as Aivas47a stated) a modified BIOS and drivers that (if I was so inclined), would run CrossFireX."
178°C (352°F) system temp.
(reported by HWMonitor)
As sold: In BIOS versions prior to 1.0.3, Nvidia System Monitor included a "System Temp" mainboard temperature sensor display which reported the temperature as being stuck at 178°C (352°F; obviously incorrect--see image at right). c|net's Senior Editor, Rich Brown, totally ignores this during his brief video review (YouTube link) of the 630i (image captured from the first c|net 630i preview video). Interestingly enough, though listed as a "Fix for high temperature shown in NVMonitor", BIOS update 1.0.3 and later completely hides this faulty sensor.
In an August 19, 2008 post, Dell Liaison Chris Mixon states that:
"BIOS 1.0.3 and later does hide a temperature sensor reading reported by NVMonitor. This reading is used only by the BIOS and does not need to be monitored by the user or NVMonitor. There is no overheating condition. The processor and chipset have built in overtemp protection and will shut down the system if there is a temperature problem."
However, it begs the following questions:
Earlier, Chris Mixon had stated that:
"The 178 thing is a software issue with Nvidia. They will fix it in time. I loaded GPU-Z on my XPS 630i and it shows the same thing."
The facts speak for themselves. In 630i systems with BIOS versions before 1.0.3 still capable of seeing this temperature sensor, HWMonitor 1.13.0 and later (see screen shot above right) proves that the sensor is still reporting a temperature of 178°C. This is a faulty sensor that should be repaired.
Status: No known action to resolve this faulty sensor has been taken by Dell.
As sold: Advertised as supporting 10, 100, and 1,000Mbps Ethernet connections.
My630i user Crashagn notes that:
"The 630i is supposed to have 10, 100, and 1,000Mb connections. I found out that when hooked up to my FS 726t NetGear smart switch with two gigabit ports it is only going to 100. In the properties under speed/duplex settings it doesn't even give an option for 1,000Mb half or full duplex--only 10 or 100 options. This is after online troubleshooting with Dell tech support (drivers, BIOS, etc.) and also having already switched my FTP and camera security server from one port to another and showing one gigabit connection. Not so on the XPS 630i--even after trying separate CAT6 cables and also CAT5e cables. The final resolution was for a service call because the only other option was a motherboard replacement. I got the motherboard yesterday, and the tech showed up to my door at noon today. He saw everything else I had and wondered why I didn't swap it out myself (I told him "two year warranty--needs to be documented"). Thirty minutes later, after replacing the motherboard the issue remained. Then a 1-1/2 hour call from the tech to Dell tech support. Still nothing resolved. After they gave me my options, I told them that this "isn't going to be a case of return it or deal with it." There will be other options available. I was then given my case number and told to call customer care, which I did after a long smoke break and after the tech left. He was cool and also wondered "why all the loops?" I called customer care and was transferred back to tech support. I updated the BIOS on the new motherboard and also updated the Nvidia Ethernet drivers. Same issue. Thankfully, the Dell tech I was speaking to, Michael, was authorized to send out a NetGear PCI gigabit Ethernet card. Thank you Michael for getting something resolved. The new card will be here in three days, and I will be glad to send some screen shots of the results showing the differences."
My630i user Slider6303 adds that:
"I concur with the issue noted: My NIC is listed as an Nvidia 10/100/1000, however when connected to a 1Gbps switch it only registers 100Mbps. The switch I tried was a Linksys/Cisco EG008W (Gigabit 8-port Workgroup Switch). I've verified the switch is good (I used this switch on my laptop and it registered a 1Gbps link and speeds with another system at GB speed) so I think this is yet another issue to log with the 630i."
Status: No known action to resolve this problem has been taken by Dell.
As sold: Supposed to be able to overclock any processor via the motherboard BIOS.
My630i user caveman notes that:
"Nobody has been able to overclock the Q9450/Q9550/Q9650(?) processors using only the Dell motherboard BIOS. Overclocking with these processors is apparently only possible with ESA software."
Status: No known action to resolve this problem has been taken by Dell.
B: Constant hard disk drive LED activity
Hard disk drive
LED at idle
As sold: The hard disk drive LED blinks continually, regardless of whether or not the hard disk is being read from, or written to (see video clip at right, taken when the system was idle).
Why is this an issue? The function of a hard disk drive LED is to keep the user informed as to when reading/writing is taking place, so that the user can make informed decisions about usage and software installation--preventing file corruption and potential system crashes. The continually blinking LED on the 630i makes it very difficult for the user to determine when, or if, the hard disk drive is either idle or active.
Dell's answers on the hard disk drive LED issue changed from a confirmed identification of the problem as a faulty printed circuit board with a confirmed solution to blaming Windows for the problem. To add insult to injury, after having the power button board replaced with the 'fixed' refurbished one from Dell, 630i user Jeff Frith reported first-hand that "the tech just left and the hard disk drive light flashes just like it used to."
Click here for a detailed look at this issue
Dell's initial position via the following c|net interview with Dell Engineer Patrick Desbois:
Q: First, people have reported that the hard-drive lights on the exterior of the case seem to be working incorrectly. Most of the reports indicate excessive blinking.
Desbois: We've identified that issue. First of all, let's back up. The hard-drive lights work, it's that they're blinking at times when they shouldn't. We've identified a fix and are regressing that fix as we speak today.
Q: What does regressing mean?
Desbois: Just validating, making sure nothing is broken. It's just part of the standard product development cycle. There are a couple of ways to control the LED via SATA, via PATA, and our design implementation is one that will work, but we see that intermittently it can have times when the hard-drive light is blinking when it's not supposed to be. To get to the root cause of this we've looked at is the autoplay function on, is Vista doing something it shouldn't be doing. And when we root-caused it, it's an implementation fix that's needed to the front panel control board, the LED board itself.
Q: Will that fix require a firmware update?
Desbois: No, it's a hardware update; it's physically moving a resistor from one spot to another.
Q: So how would you roll that out to customers?
Desbois: How we roll that out to the customers is being worked on right now. It could mean anywhere from a patch in firmware, to a hardware fix to the resistor itself. We're trying to make it so it's easy for the customer without having to do a hardware replacement.
Q: Do you guys have an ETA on when you'll be able to communicate the plan?
Desbois: Imminently. Next few weeks.
Q: I assume this is something you didn't find during the initial qualification process for the 630.
Desbois: The validation tests identify and rigorously test if it's it blinking when it should be when there's hard-drive activity. And it is. And it's also from what we've seen intermittent and it has a very small failure rate, so through out the validation process we didn't see it.
Q: So it doesn't necessarily happen to every 630?
Desbois: That's correct.
Q: Is there a difference between the ones it happens to and the ones it doesn't?
Desbois: It could happen on any 630. The failure rate is very low, so it's hard to identify when it could happen. But it can happen on any 630.
- The hard drive lights blink when they shouldn't.
- Vista and/or autoplay is definitely not the cause of the problem.
- The problem is intermittent, has a very small failure rate, but yet can happen on any 630i.
- The fix is definitely hardware and yet possibly firmware.
- Our (Dell's) solution will work.
Dell's second position via Dell Liaison Chris Mixon then changes to:
"The operating system performs regular maintenance on the drives at periodic intervals: indexing service, constant scandisk, rolling defrag, AV, memory paging, write cache commit, polling of the hard disk drive and optical drives, antivirus software, etc. These functions are occurring on all desktops. However, the hard drive LED on the XPS 630i is brighter than on any other Dell desktop PC, so the normal activity is more noticeable."
- Ongoing Windows activity is a key part of the problem.
- This activity happens on all desktops, not just the 630i.
- Even normal activity (flashing) is more noticeable.
- The hard drive LED is brighter than on any other Dell desktop PC.
Dell's final position via Dell Liaison Chris Mixon then changes once again to:
"All they changed with KW400 was to make the LED less bright. There is no way to make it flash less."
- The hardware fix makes the LED less bright (which is up for debate, according to a user and a Dell tech who implemented the replacment).
- There is no way to make it flash less.
The hardware 'fix' entry (as of November 16, 2008, bottom of page) in the new Dell Community Forum 630i FAQ entails a part replacement regarding the constantly-blinking hard disk drive LED:
HDD LED flashes all the time
* Contact support and tell them you have the flashing HDD LED issue. Have them setup a service to install part #KW400.
According to Dell's website, P/N KW400 is a "Refurbished: Power Button Board". Thanks to My630i.com user tdogs630i for this extra info.
Status: In spite of the official refurbished power button board "fix" (and many thanks to 630i user Jeff Frith who initially spotted it) My630i.com user tdogs630i reports that it is apparently a waste of time:
"Well guys, don't waste your time on this fix. The tech just left and the hard disk drive light flashes just like it used to. He said as far as he could tell, he just replaced the same part as he took out. He left me the old part and it says "KW400" on it. Neither of us could see any kind of "revision" number on it.
BTW, this isn't an easy part to install. It took the Dell tech about 45 minutes. You have to remove the front panel which is pretty easy, but then you have to remove the fan and shroud inside the computer to get to where the cable for the part plugs in. The tech had a lot of problems trying to snake the wires out from their hiding places.
Back to square one I guess."
Of special interest is a note from My630i.com user davidalindsey, who reports that:
"Well with my EVGA 780i FTW motherboard, the hard disk drive light still blinks like before, but it is not at all as bright as it was before. It is only bright when there is actual hard disk drive activity."
Some users report reduced blinking after disabling Window's "Autorun" feature (steps listed below); however, please note that this does not work for all users, and disabling this functionality in Windows can be a hindrance when it comes to software installation:
Click here to toggle instructions for disabling Window's "Autorun" feature
This will disable Auto Insert Notification.
C: Confusing/misleading advertising of optional audio cards
As advertised: Dell's U.S. website does not properly identify the card as an OEM version made by Creative Labs for Dell. In addition (and in a number of cases), Creative-brand X-Fi audio cards sold as options with the 630i were advertised as XtremeMusic cards.
As sold: Many users have discovered that their cards are in fact XtremeGamer cards.Status: No known action to resolve this problem has been taken by Dell. Despite the fact that both cards contain similar hardware, variation in U.S. and Canadian markets has caused significant confusion and frustration when users contact Dell technical support, especially when inquiring as to what fixes can, or cannot, be used.
Click here to toggle commentary regarding confusing X-Fi audio card advertising
My630i.com user Drange notes that:
"In the U.S. you call it the X-Fi XtremeGamer, and in Canada the exact same card is called the X-Fi XtremeMusic(D). While the Canadian site does properly identify the card as an OEM version made by Creative Labs for Dell, the U.S. site does not. Yet again, Dell has proven its inability to accurately advertise the correct specs for something. Yes, I saw the #8 disclaimer but what I can't understand is why Dell doesn't just add the (D) like they did for the Canadian site? I would also point out "Certain components may differ from the retail version" does not imply that it's a Dell version of the card; just that it's potentially an OEM."
"By your own admission the X-Fi XtremeGamer and X-Fi XtremeMusic are different cards with different features, and yet the same card is marketed under two different names in two different regions. Again, all Dell has done is complicate troubleshooting by not properly identifying a product. Also, how is it you expect a customer to be able to figure out what they are buying if Dell doesn't even know?"
D: Shoddy technical support from XPS Desktop staff
As advertised: Dell touts access to superior service via rigorous, product-specific-trained XPS staff capable of handling the 630i's technical issues--most within two minutes.
As sold: Numerous 630i customers' experiences of Dell's XPS technical support staff have shown that their technical expertise and knowledge are--at best--very poor and no more knowledgable than Dell's default customer support staff. In many cases, they have simply read irrelevent/erroneous scripts back to the customer.
Status: No known action to resolve this problem has been taken by Dell.
E: Contradictions, hypocrisy, and shady policies
"You cannot use Intel specification data for Dell OEM (original equipment manufacturer) hardware."
Dell is thereby stating that since they have no accountability to the original manufacturers, they cannot be held responsible for any flaws or defects in their hardware. Strangely, very convienient for them.
now a false claim
"Please note: due to ongoing issues with the XPS 630i we have removed the Recommended award. Please visit our forums for full details."
The screen shot at right was taken on July 2, 2008--weeks after PC Pro removed their award.