Just Delivered: MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning

Subject: Graphics Cards | March 18, 2014 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: radeon, R9 290X, msi, just delivered, amd, 290x lightning, 290x

While Ryan may be en route to the Game Developer's Conference in San Francisco right now, work must go on at the PC Perspective office. As it happens my arrival at the office today was greeted by a massively exciting graphics card, the MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning.

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While we first got our hands on a prerelease version of this card at CES earlier this year, we can now put the Lightning edition through its paces.

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To go along with this massive graphics card comes a massive box. Just like the GTX 780 Lightning, MSI paid extra detail to the packaging to create a more premium-feeling experience than your standard reference design card.

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Comparing the 290X Lightning to the AMD reference design, it is clear how much engineering went into this card - the heatpipe and fins alone are as thick as the entire reference card. This, combined with a redesigned PCB and improved power management should ensure that you never fall victim to the GPU clock variance issues of the reference design cards, and give you one of the best overclocking experiences possible from the Hawaii GPU.

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While I haven't had a chance to start benchmarking yet, I put it on the testbed and figured I would give a little preview of what you can expect from this card out of the box.

Stay tuned for more coverage of the MSI Radeon R9 290X Lightning and our full review, coming soon on PC Perspective!

Source: MSI

Just Delivered: The Latest Midrange to High End NVIDIA Graphics Cards from ASUS

Subject: Graphics Cards | July 10, 2013 - 01:48 PM |
Tagged: Overclocked, nvidia, just delivered, gtx 780, gtx 770, gtx 760, GTX 670 Mini, DirectCU II, DCII, asus

Returning home on Monday, I was greeted by several (slightly wet) boxes from Asus.  Happily, the rainstorm that made these boxes a bit damp did not last long, and the wetness was only superficial.  The contents were perfectly fine.  I was pleased by this, but not particularly pleased with FedEx for leaving them in a spot where they got wet.  All complaints aside, I was obviously ecstatic to get the boxes.

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Quite the lineup.  The new packaging is sharp looking and clearly defines the contents.

Inside these boxes are some of the latest and greatest video cards from Asus.  Having just finished up a budget roundup, I had the bandwidth available to tackle a much more complex task.  Asus sent four cards for our testing procedures, and I intend to go over them with a fine toothed comb.

The smallest of the bunch is the new GTX 670 DC Mini.  Asus did some serious custom work to not only get the card as small as it is, but also to redesign the power delivery system so that the chip only requires a single 8 pin PCI-E power connection.  Most GTX 670 boards require 2 x 6 pin connectors which would come out to be around 225 watts delivered, but a single 8 pin would give around 175 watts total.  This is skirting the edge of the official draw for the GTX 670, but with the GK104 chip being as mature as it is, there is some extra leeway involved.  The cooler is quite compact and apparently pretty quiet.  This is aimed at the small form factor crowd who do not want/need a overly large card, but still require a lot of performance.  While the GTX 700 series is now hitting the streets, there is still a market for this particular card.  Oh, and it is also overclocked for good measure!

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We see a nice progression from big to little.  It is amazing how small the GTX 670 DC Mini is compared to the rest, and it will be quite interesting to see how it compares to the GTX 760 in testing.

The second card is the newly released GTX 760 DCII OC.  This is again based on the tried and true GK104 chip, but has several units disabled.  It has 1152 CUDA cores, but retains the same number of ROPS as the fully enabled chips.  It also features the full 256 bit memory bus running at 6 Gbps.  It has plenty of bandwidth to provide the card in most circumstances considering the amount of functional units enabled.  The cooler is one of the new DirectCU II designs and is a nice upgrade in both functionality and looks from the previous DCII models.  It is a smaller card than one would expect, but that comes from the need to simplify the card and not overbuild it like the higher priced 770 and 780 cards.  As I have mentioned before, I really like the budget and midrange cards.  This should be a really fascinating card to test.

The next card is a bit of an odd bird.  The GTX 770 DCII OC is essentially a slightly higher clocked GTX 680 from yesteryear.  One of the big changes is that this particular model foregoes the triple slot cooler of the previous generation and implements a dual slot cooler that is quite heavy and with a good fin density.  It features six pin and eight pin power connections so it has some legs for overclocking.  The back plate is there for stability and protection, and it gives the board a very nice, solid feel.  Asus added two LEDs by the power connections which show if the card is receiving power or not.  This is nice, as the fans on this card are very silent in most situations.  Nobody wants to unplug a video card that is powered up.  It retains the previous generation DCII styling, but the cooler performance is certainly nothing to sneeze at.  It also is less expensive than the previous GTX 680, but is faster.

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All of the cards sport dual DVI, DisplayPort, and HDMI outputs.  Both DVI ports are dual-link, but only one is DVI-I which can also output a VGA signal with the proper adapter.

Finally we have the big daddy of the GTX 700 series.  The 780 DCII OC is pretty much a monster card that exceeds every other offering out there, except the $1K GTX Titan.  It is a slightly cut down chip as compared to the mighty Titan, but it still packs in 2304 CUDA cores.  It retains the 384 bit memory bus and runs at a brisk 6 Gbps for a whopping 288.4 GB/sec of bandwidth.  The core is overclocked to a base of 889 MHz and boosts up to 941 MHz.  The cooler on this is massive.  It features a brand new fan design for the front unit which apparently can really move the air and do so quietly.  Oddly enough, this fan made its debut appearance on the aforementioned GTX 670 DC Mini.  The PCB on the GTX 780 DCII OC is non-reference.  It features a new power delivery system that should keep this board humming when overclocked.  Asus has done their usual magic in pairing the design with high quality components which should ensure a long lifespan for this pretty expensive board.

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I do like the protective plates on the backs of the bigger cards, but the rear portion of the two smaller cards are interesting as well.  We will delve more into the "Direct Power" functionality in the full review.

I am already well into testing these units and hope to have the full roundup late next week.  These are really neat cards and any consumer looking to buy a new one should certainly check out the review once it is complete.

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Asus has gone past the "Superpipe" stage with the GTX 780.  That is a 10 mm heatpipe we are seeing.  All of the DCII series coolers are robust, and even the DC Mini can dissipate a lot of heat.

Source: Asus

Just Delivered: Samsung Galaxy Centura Android Smartphone (SCH-S738C)

Subject: Mobile | July 5, 2013 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: smartphone, sch-s738c, Samsung, just delivered, galaxy centura, android 4.0.4

Just Delivered is a new section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

Find the Galaxy Centura on Amazon!

I recently decided to move away from AT&T and try out a Straight Talk plan on the recommendation of friends. Moving to Straight Talk also meant getting a new phone though, because when I went to Straight Talk last month AT&T compatible SIM cards were still not available.

Long story short, I ended up getting the Samsung Galaxy Centura smart phone and Straight Talk's $45/month no-contract offering, which is around half of what I was paying AT&T! The phone itself cost $100.

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The Samsung Galaxy Centura is smartphone that operates on Verizon's network and runs Android 4.0.4. Not the latest and greatest Android, but Samsung has not "blessed" the phone with its TouchWiz UI and a nice step up from the Samsung Infuse 4G's Android 2.3 OS that Samsung never bothered updating further (heh).

The Samsung Galaxy Centura is model number SCH-S738C (GP). It measures 4.44" (H) x 2.4" (W) x 0.45" (D) and weighs 4.4 ounces. The front of the phone features a 3.5" 262K TFT touchscreen with a resolution of 320 x 480. A small speaker grill and Tracfone logo sit at the top, while a Samsung logo and three capacitive buttons sit below the screen. The buttons are menu, home, and back. The front of the phone is black and surrounded by a glossy blue bezel that also matches the battery door.

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The back of the phone has another Samsung logo, a speaker grill, and a 3MP camera capable of shooting 3MP stills and 640 x 480 video. The back of the phone comes off and doubles as the battery door. Samsung has put several clips along the edges to hold it in place, and may actually be a bit too secure as it can be hard to get the door off.

A standard 3.5mm headphone jack is located at the top of the phone, a power button is located on teh right side, and two volume buttons are located on the left edge. The bottom edge includes a micro-USB connector.

Internally, the Galaxy Centura features a Qualcomm MSM7625A SoC with a single core Snapdragon S1 processor (45nm, Cortex-A5) clocked at 800 Mhz, an Adreno 200 GPU, and a CDMA cellular radio. Additionally, the SoC is paired with 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage (expandable by a microSD card under the battery door), and a decent 3.7V, 5.55 Wh, 1500 mAh battery. Other internal hardware includes an accelerometer, GPS, Bluetooth radio, and Wi-Fi radio. I am not as familiar with CDMA as GSM, but the Centura operates on Verizon's equivalent to AT&T's 3G network for data and vocie (though not at the same time). It is currently connected to Verizon's EVDO Rev. A:8 network. As far as network data speed, the fastest results I have been able to get, as measured by speedtest.net, are 1,276 kbps down and 487 kbps up.

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While it had no problems running Android games at decent frame rates, 3DMark mobile pushed it to its limits. It scored 536 in the Ice Storm benchmark and 281 in the Ice Storm Extreme benchmark, for example. Unfortunately, this 3DMark app was not available when I had the Infuse 4G so I am not able to offer up comparison results.

Now that the specifications and pricing is out of the way, I can talk a bit about first impressions. I have been using the smartphone for a couple of weeks now, and it is a fairly solid device, especially considering the price of the hardware (and the monthly plan is cheap too). It is noticeably slower at some tasks than my old Samsung Infuse, but that is to be expected with slower-clocked hardware. With that said, performance was actually much better than I expected it to be. The phone is able to run apps and games without issue, though when multi-tasking the game frame-rate starts to dip. Switching between applications (especially with a game running) is not as snappy as with my Infuse, but not terribly slow either. I'm not sure if it's the newer version of Android or not, but the software side of things seems to work well on this hardware.

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The physical smartphone is plastic, but it feels well built. Admittedly, I have dropped my new phone quite a few more times than I would have liked (heh), but it has held up really well. It has not yet gone plastic to concrete yet though. Dropping it on tile and carpet has not caused any issues, however. When holding the phone and using the touchscreen, there is no creaking of the battery door and it seems to stand up to pressure without problems. With that said, I do have one complaint about the physical hardware, and that is that when holding the phone in the landscape position, the end of the back cover next to the speaker grill gives too much and makes a creaking noise when pressed in (say, when playing a racing game). That is the only area that exhibits that issue, however. It is likely due to the fact that Samsung carved out a bit internally for the microSD card and speaker underneath the back cover on the phone itself whereas the rest of the phone's back cover fits snugly to the back of the phone.

Overall, I'm happy with the phone, it gets excellent signal where I live now and is a good Android (albeit 4.0.4) experience for only $100 for the hardware. If you are off contract right now and thinking about switching to one of the many MVNOs (and live in an area with good Verizon coverage), I'd recommend trying out the Samsung Galaxy Centura from what I've experienced thus far. It is not the latest or fastest hardware by far, but it has great price/performance.

Just Delivered: Achieva Shimian 27" 2560x1440p Display

Subject: Displays | June 27, 2012 - 06:15 PM |
Tagged: yamakasi, shimian, korean, just delivered, catleap, achieva, 27, 1440p

If you've been paying attention to either the PC Perspective Podcast or This Week in Computer Hardware for the past few weeks, our talk of a new crop of low cost, 2560x1600, 27" monitors rising out of South Korea has been unavoidable.

Well, late last week I decided that it was time I get out of the 1080p era, and into the world of higher resolution displays.

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After an impressive shipment time of only 3 days, I recieved a package directly from Seoul this afternoon, and rushed straight to the office to open it and inform PC Perspective readers.

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For those of you not in the know, we recieved a tip a few weeks back from a reader about inexpensive 2560x1440 displays popping up on eBay for around $350. Of course this excited the staff at PC Perspective, and we immediately went into research mode, looking for all of the information we could find about these displays. While the initial impressions we saw all over forums were generally positive, we decided to give these displays the real PC Perpsective review treatment.

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While the Yamakasi Catleap is the most well known of these monitors, I decided to go with the $315 (Shipped!) Achieva Shiminan, for reasons to be expanded upon later in the full review.

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However, before we began our strenuous testing process, I wanted to give the dedicated PC Per readers a sneak peak of such an interesting product. Out of the box, we hooked it up an AMD Radeon 7950 on our GPU testbed, which had no issues at all.

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Also, just because the poorly translated eBay listings said it would not work, despite our best inclinations, I plugged this display into my Late 2011 MacBook Air with Intel HD 3000 graphics. Even using the not so reliable Apple Mini DisplayPort to Dual Link DVI adapter, my MacBook detected the display with no issue. While I certainly won't be gaming on this machine, the display has been working flawlessly so far.

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I know readers must have a million questions about these displays, so feel free to leave them in the comments of this post, and I will try to address them all in the full review coming soon!

Just Delivered: DV Nation RAMRod PC - Sandy Bridge-E, 64GB DDR3, 480GB RevoDrive 3 X2

Subject: Systems, Storage | May 11, 2012 - 04:34 PM |
Tagged: x79, sandy bridge-e, RevoDrive 3 X2, ramrod, just delivered, dv nation

Just Delivered is a section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

When you are a little fish in the great big pond of PC builders, you need to do something to stand out from the rest.  The people behind DV Nation apparently were well aware of that when entering the system vendor business and offering up SSDs to every single system configuration.  Through a new system they are offering, provocatively named the "RAMRod PC", DV Nation provides a pre-built system that has some very unique components and configuration settings.

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Built around the Antec Three Hundred Two chassis, the first glance at the RAMRod doesn't really indicate anything special is going on under the hood.  But let's take a quick look at the specs:

  • Intel Core i7-3820 @ 4.4 GHz
  • 64GB DDR3-1600 Memory from G.Skill
  • Radeon HD 6990 4GB 
  • 2x Seagate Momentus XT 750GB Hybrid HDD in RAID-0
  • OCZ RevoDrive 3 X2 480GB PCIE SSD
  • RAMCache: SuperSpeed Supercache 8GB on PCIE SSD, 8GB on Momentus
  • RAMDisk: 42GB ROMEX Primo rated at 8000 MB/s
  • Cost: $5,400

Obviously there is a LOT of storage work going on in the RAMRod and the purpose of the rig is to be the fastest pre-configured storage available anywhere.  If you are looking for a cheaper version of this system you can get a base model with 16GB of memory, 10GB RAMDisk, 2GB RAMCache, 240GB PCIe SSD, single standard hard drive and even at GTX 680 for $2999.

Let's take a quick walk around the rest of the system.

Continue reading our preview of the DV Nation RAMRod PC!!

Source: DV Nation

Just Delivered: MAINGEAR SHIFT with 3x Radeon HD 7970 Cards!

Subject: Graphics Cards, Systems | April 7, 2012 - 06:16 PM |
Tagged: shift, maingear, just delivered, HD 7970, 7970

Just Delivered is a section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

While we get sent complete system builds from time to time, it's pretty rare when they actually impress me.  Because we review and work with the best harware in the business on a daily basis, something unique really has to be there for us to really be wowed.  Today we were playing with a custom built MAINGEAR SHIFT machine that did just that.

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The SHIFT is the company's flagship product line that starts out with an $1800+ price tag, so you know you are getting top of the line components.  Our test system includes a Core i7-3960X Sandy Bridge-E processor as well as a trio of Radeon HD 7970 cards from AMD.  That's right, three.

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The internals are lit by a white LED and the black/red color pattern of the graphics cards is continued with the inclusion of matching Corsair DDR3 memory to the tune of 16GB and the MAINGEAR EPIC 180 self-containted water cooler.

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Corsair's AX1200 watt power supply is included in the build and it is necessary!  During our testing so far we found the PC could draw as much as 1050 watts from the wall while running 3DMark11.

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Another exclusive feature for the MAINGEAR systems is the EPIC Audio system that adds studio quality audio headphone output and microphone input.  The licensed Aphex technology is touted by the company as being really impressive and I am looking forward to giving it a try this week.

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With our time with the SHIFT so far, the build quality has been impressive, the lack of crapware on the system is a welcome change and the performance is simply astounding as we expected with a SNB-E CPU and triple HD 7970s in CrossFireX.  

Expect more very soon!

Just Delivered: MSI Z77A-GD65 Motherboard Preview

Subject: Motherboards, Processors, Chipsets | February 29, 2012 - 12:03 PM |
Tagged: just delivered, z77a-gd65, Z77, sandy bridge, msi, Ivy Bridge, Intel

In preparation for Intel's 3rd generation of Intel Core microprocessor architecture (can you see we are dancing around things already), MSI has started showing a new line of motherboards.  While at CES in January we saw the Z77A-GD65 option that will be available soon and offers some interesting new specs and features. 

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The Z77A-GD65 sports Military Class III components as well as support for a host of new items including PCI Express 3.0 and USB 3.0.  While we can't share much more than that in terms of details I thought it might be worth showing off a few shots of the upcoming motherboard from our friends at MSI.

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See more photos of the MSI Z77A-GD65!!

Just Delivered: Corsair Vengeance K90, K60, M90, M60 Keyboards and Mice

Subject: General Tech | February 24, 2012 - 06:46 PM |
Tagged: vengeance, mouse, m90, m60, keyboard, k90, k60, just delivered, hid, corsair

Just Delivered is a section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

Corsair does just about everything now - memory modules, power supplies, cases, SSDs, headphones, speakers, water coolers, functional LED umbrellas and now keyboards and mice.  And just like we have seen when Corsair entered new markets previously, they took their time to do it right.  The Vengeance line of keyboards and mice offer two dedicated series for gamers of different persuasions: the K90 and M90 for MMO players and the K60 and M60 for predominantly FPS users.

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The new keyboards consist MOSTLY of Cherry MX Red switches (which you can read more about here in our recent Rosewill keyboard roundup) and are generally very well built.  The mice have adjustable DPIs, lights and lots of button.  What follows is a pictorial preview of these gorgeous devices before our review sometime in the near future!  Enjoy!!

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The K60 comes with a removable left hand rest for your frequent gaming as well as replaceable WASD keys that have a rubber texture to them and are slightly angled to keep your fingers from slipping out during those INTENSE gaming moments.

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Corsair tends to think of the customer first so they were sure to include a tool to remove the keys rather than telling you to use a flat head screwdriver from your garage.

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One of my favorite features is the Windows button disable key up there to prevent you from accidently hitting that during gameplay.

See a lot more photos of these devices in our full post!!

Source: Corsair

Just Delivered: Eaton 3S 750VA / 450 watt Battery Backup UPS

Subject: General Tech | December 6, 2011 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: battery, ups, eaton, 3s, just delivered

Just Delivered is a new section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

Sometimes computer technology isn't sexy - but you need it anyway.  Just look at items like optical drives (debatable), floppy discs and ZIP drives?  Amiright?  An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) is just one of those items.  You might not want to think about it, but you should have one, even for gamers and general PC users.

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Ever been working on a school document or maybe even a really detailed rage post on your favorite forum and had the power flicker and your PC reset, losing hours and hours of work you put into telling that moron why your GPU was better?  If so, or if you can imagine the frustration, then you know why having even just a few minutes of battery time on a desktop computer can be critical. 

We recently picked up the Eaton 3S battery backup which you can find online for as little as $70 - quite a steal for the peace of mind you'll get for having it.  Yes, if you are gaming on a PC using more than 450 watts when the power outage occurs, you are probably screwed.  If you are doing basically anything else, almost any desktop configuration should be good to go.

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The Eaton 3S 750VA model includes 5 outlets for battery backup and 5 more that are surge protection only.  The power button light changes colors depending on the units status and is a very basic indicator of your current power situation.

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The 3S has network surge protection as well as a USB port to connect tor your PC should you wish to use the Eaton Intelligent Power Protector software that enables features like graceful shutdown (if you are away from your PC when the power outage occurs).   You don't have to use that software though, and the unit will operate on a completely plug-and-play fashion using Windows, Mac or Linux integrated power management software.

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The unit can be wall mounted which is nice if you have limited floor space.

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The battery in the unit is user replaceable which is a nice change of pace and could lower your maintenance costs down the road for this UPS.  Eaton actually offers a 3-year warranty on both the unit AND THE BATTERY; something that other companies like APC do not (as I have first had experience with). 

The amount of runtime you will get with a UPS like this will obviously vary based on your hardware setup and while Eaton estimates "between 10 and 30 minutes" I would wager it would be slightly less than that for our readers.  Still, a few minutes is better than NO minutes so consider this Just Delivered to double as a PC Perspective PSA.  

Just Delivered: 64GB of Corsair DDR3 - Ready for Sandy Bridge-E!!

Subject: Processors, Chipsets, Memory | November 7, 2011 - 03:07 PM |
Tagged: corsair, vengeance, sandy bridge-e, just delivered

Just Delivered is a new section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.

Sometimes we receive interesting packages in the mail and when we get things from Corsair, we tend to pay attention.  Oddly, I had not seen a box quite this size before.  What comes from Corsair in the shape of a cube?

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As it turns out, it was four 16GB DDR3 memory kits, preparing our team for the upcoming Sandy Bridge-E platform reviews!

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Each kit includes 4 modules, getting us ready for the quad-channel memory controller on the upcoming Intel CPU.  Corsair included both Vengeance and Vengeance LP kits for us, offering an option is lower profile for potentially larger heatsinks.

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For motherboards that will ship with 8 DIMM slots, this allows us to test configurations as high as 32GB!!  We are going to be covering all of these bases for you in the coming weeks before launch but don't worry - we are going test the standard 4 x 2GB configurations as well.  :)