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Digging in a Little Deeper into the DiRT
Over the past few weeks I have had the chance to play the early access "DiRT Rally" title from Codemasters. This is a much more simulation based title that is currently PC only, which is a big switch for Codemasters and how they usually release their premier racing offerings. I was able to get a hold of Paul Coleman from Codemasters and set up a written interview with him. Paul's answers will be in italics.
Who are you, what do you do at Codemasters, and what do you do in your spare time away from the virtual wheel?
Hi my name is Paul Coleman and I am the Chief Games Designer on DiRT Rally. I’m responsible for making sure that the game is the most authentic representation of the sport it can be, I’m essentially representing the player in the studio. In my spare time I enjoy going on road trips with my family in our 1M Coupe. I’ve been co-driving in real world rally events for the last three years and I’ve used that experience to write and voice the co-driver calls in game.
If there is one area that DiRT has really excelled at is keeping frame rate consistent throughout multiple environments. Many games, especially those using cutting edge rendering techniques, often have dramatic frame rate drops at times. How do you get around this while still creating a very impressive looking game?
The engine that DiRT Rally has been built on has been constantly iterated on over the years and we have always been looking at ways of improving the look of the game while maintaining decent performance. That together with the fact that we work closely with GPU manufacturers on each project ensures that we stay current. We also have very strict performance monitoring systems that have come from optimising games for console. These systems have proved very useful when building DiRT Rally even though the game is exclusively on PC.
How do you balance out different controller use cases? While many hard core racers use a wheel, I have seen very competitive racing from people using handheld controllers as well as keyboards. Do you handicap/help those particular implementations so as not to make it overly frustrating to those users? I ask due to the difference in degrees of precision that a gamepad has vs. a wheel that can rotate 900 degrees.
Again this comes back to the fact that we have traditionally developed for console where the primary input device is a handheld controller. This is an area that other sims don’t usually have to worry about but for us it was second nature. There are systems that we have that add a layer between the handheld controller or keyboard and the game which help those guys but the wheel is without a doubt the best way to experience DiRT Rally as it is a direct input.
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of ASUS
The ASUS Z97-Pro Gamer motherboard is one of the newest motherboards to join their Intel Z97-based line of products. The board is squarely targeted at gaming enthusiasts, combining an appealing aesthetic with a compelling feature set for a must-have product. At an MSRP of $169.99, the Z97-Pro Gamer offers premium features to budget-conscious gamers.
Courtesy of ASUS
Courtesy of ASUS
Courtesy of ASUS
Even with its aggressive price-point, ASUS coupled the Z97-Pro Gamer motherboard with a top-rated power system dubbed Gamer's Guardian. The board includes an 8+2 phase digital power delivery system, 10k Japanese-source Black Metallic capacitors, DIGI+ VRMs, ESD (electro-static discharge) modules protecting the integrated ports, and DRAM overcurrent protection with integrated resetable fuses. For superior sound fedelity, ASUS integrated their updated SupremeFX audio system into the board's design, featuring illuminated board sheilding, 300 ohm headphone amplifier, and ELNA audio capacitors.
Introduction and Specifications
Seiki has spent the past few years making quite the entrance into the display market. Starting with LCD TVs, they seemingly came out of nowhere back in April of 2013 with a 50” 4K display that was available at a very competitive price at that time. Since then, we’ve seen a few more display releases out of Seiki, and they were becoming popular among home theater enthusiasts on a budget and for gamers who wanted a bigger panel in front of them. Last June, Seiki announced a desktop line of 4K monitors. These would not just be repurposed televisions, but ground-up designs intended for desktop professionals and gamers alike. The most eagerly awaited part of this announcement was promised 60 Hz support at 4K resolutions.
Just under a year later, we are happy to bring you a review of the first iteration on this new Seiki Pro lineup:
It's been a while since we reviewed Intel's SSD 750 PCIe NVMe fire-breathing SSD, and since that launch we more recently had some giveaways and contests. We got the prizes in to be sent out to the winners, but before that happened, we had this stack of hardware sitting here. It just kept staring down at me (literally - this is the view from my chair):
That stack of 5 Intel SSD 750’s was burning itself into my periphery as I worked on an upcoming review of the new Seiki Pro 40” 4K display. A few feet in the other direction was our CPU testbed machine, an ASUS X99-Deluxe with a 40-lane Intel Core i7-5960 CPU installed. I just couldn't live with myself if we sent these prizes out without properly ‘testing’ them first, so then this happened:
This will not be a typical complete review, as this much hardware in parallel is not realistically comparable to even the craziest power user setup. It is more just a couple of hours of playing with an insane hardware configuration and exploring the various limits and bottlenecks we were sure to run into. We’ll do a few tests in a some different configurations and let you know what we found out.
Digging into a specific market
A little while ago, I decided to think about processor design as a game. You are given a budget of complexity, which is determined by your process node, power, heat, die size, and so forth, and the objective is to lay out features in the way that suits your goal and workload best. While not the topic of today's post, GPUs are a great example of what I mean. They make the assumption that in a batch of work, nearby tasks are very similar, such as the math behind two neighboring pixels on the screen. This assumption allows GPU manufacturers to save complexity by chaining dozens of cores together into not-quite-independent work groups. The circuit fits the work better, and thus it lets more get done in the same complexity budget.
Carrizo is aiming at a 63 million unit per year market segment.
This article is about Carrizo, though. This is AMD's sixth-generation APU, starting with Llano's release in June 2011. For this launch, Carrizo is targeting the 15W and 35W power envelopes for $400-$700 USD notebook devices. AMD needed to increase efficiency on the same, 28nm process that we have seen in their product stack since Kabini and Temash were released in May of 2013. They tasked their engineers to optimize their APU's design for these constraints, which led to dense architectures and clever features on the same budget of complexity, rather than smaller transistors or a bigger die.
15W was their primary target, and they claim to have exceeded their own expectations.
Backing up for a second. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
When I met with AMD last month, I brought up the Bulldozer architecture with many individuals. I suspected that it was a quite clever design that didn't reach its potential because of external factors. As I started this editorial, processor design is a game and, if you can save complexity by knowing your workload, you can do more with less.
Bulldozer looked like it wanted to take a shortcut by cutting elements that its designers believed would be redundant going forward. First and foremost, two cores share a single floating point (decimal) unit. While you need some floating point capacity, upcoming workloads could use the GPU for a massive increase in performance, which is right there on the same die. As such, the complexity that is dedicated to every second FPU can be cut and used for something else. You can see this trend throughout various elements of the architecture.
A substantial upgrade for Thunderbolt
Today at Computex, Intel took the wraps off of the latest iteration of Thunderbolt, a technology that I am guessing many of you thought was dead in the water. It turns out that's not the case, and this new set of features that Thunderbolt 3 offers may in fact push it over the crest and give it the momentum needed to become a useable and widespread standard.
First, Thunderbolt 3 starts with a new piece of silicon, code named Alpine Ridge. Not only does Alpine Ridge increase the available Thunderbolt bandwidth to 40 Gbps but it also adds a native USB 3.1 host controller on the chip itself. And, as mobile users will be glad to see, Intel is going to start utilizing the new USB Type-C (USB-C) connector as the standard port rather than mini DisplayPort.
This new connector type, that was already a favorite among PC Perspective staff because of its size and its reversibility, will now be the way connectivity and speed increases this generation with Thunderbolt. This slide does a good job of summarizing the key take away from the TB3 announcement: 40 Gbps, support for two 4K 60 Hz displays, 100 watt (bi-directional) charging capability, 15 watt device power and support for four protocols including Thunderbolt, DisplayPort, USB and PCI Express.
Protocol support is important and Thunderbolt 3 over USB-C will be able to connect directly to a DisplayPort monitor, to an external USB 3.1 storage drive, an old thumb drive or a new Thunderbolt 3 docking station. This is truly unrivaled flexibility from a single connector. The USB 3.1 controller is backward compatible as well: feel free to connect any USB device to it that you can adapt to the Type-C connection.
From a raw performance perspective Thunderbolt 3 offers a total of 40 Gbps of bi-directional bandwidth, twice that of Thunderbolt 2 and 4x what we get with USB 3.1. That offers users the ability to combine many different devices, multiple displays and network connections and have plenty of headroom.
With Thunderbolt 3 you get twice as much raw video bandwidth, two DP 1.2 streams, allowing you to run not just a single 4K display at 60 Hz but two of them, all over a single TB3 cable. If you want to connect a 5K display though, you will be limited to just one of them.
For mobile users, which I think is the area where Thunderbolt 3 will be the most effective, the addition of USB 3.1 allows for charging capability up to 100 watts. This is in addition to the 15 watts of power that Thunderbolt provides to devices directly - think external storage, small hubs/docks, etc.
Introduction and First Impressions
Phanteks has expanded their Enthoo enclosure lineup with a new ATX version of the popular EVOLV case, and it offers a striking design and some unique features to help it stand out in the mid-tower market.
Phanteks first came to my attention with their large double tower cooler PH-TC14, which competes directly with the Noctua NH-D14 in the CPU air-cooling market. But like a lot of other cooling companies (Cooler Master, Corsair, etc.) Phanteks also offers a full lineup of enclosures as well. Of these the Enthoo EVOLV, which until today has only been available in a micro-ATX and mini-ITX version, has been well-received and has a angular, minimalist look that I like quite a bit. Enter the EVOLV ATX.
With the larger size to this new EVOLV ATX there is not only room for a full-size motherboard, but much more room for components and cooling as well. The internal layout is very similar to the recently reviewed Fractal Design Define S enclosure, with no storage (5.25” or 3.5”) inside the front of the case, which gives the EVOLV ATX a totally open layout. The front is solid metal (though well vented) so we’ll see how this affects cooling, and it will be interesting to see how Phanteks has approached internal storage with the design as well. Let’s get started!
When NVIDIA launched the GeForce GTX Titan X card only back in March of this year, I knew immediately that the GTX 980 Ti would be close behind. The Titan X was so different from the GTX 980 when it came to pricing and memory capacity (12GB, really??) that NVIDIA had set up the perfect gap with which to place the newly minted GTX 980 Ti. Today we get to take the wraps off of that new graphics card and I think you'll be impressed with what you find, especially when you compare its value to the Titan X.
Based on the same Maxwell architecture and GM200 GPU, with some minor changes to GPU core count, memory size and boost speeds, the GTX 980 Ti finds itself in a unique spot in the GeForce lineup. Performance-wise it's basically identical in real-world game testing to the GTX Titan X, yet is priced $350 less that that 12GB behemoth. Couple that with a modest $50 price drop in the GTX 980 cards and you have all markers of an enthusiast graphics card that will sell as well as any we have seen in recent generations.
The devil is in all the other details, of course. AMD has its own plans for this summer but the Radeon R9 290X is still sitting there at a measly $320, undercutting the GTX 980 Ti by more than half. NVIDIA seems to be pricing its own GPUs as if it isn't even concerned with what AMD and the Radeon brand are doing. That could be dangerous if it goes on too long, but for today, can the R9 290X put up enough fight with the aging Hawaii XT GPU to make its value case to gamers on the fence?
Will the GeForce GTX 980 Ti be the next high-end GPU to make a splash in the market, or will it make a thud at the bottom of the GPU gene pool? Let's dive into it, shall we?
Introduction and Features
Corsair continues to offer a huge selection of memory products, PC cases, SSDs, power supplies, coolers, gaming peripherals, and PC accessories! The 780T Full-Tower case is one of the new additions to Corsair’s Graphite Series of PC enclosures for 2015 and is available in either black or white. The 780T is a premium case loaded with features that will enable quick, easy, and good-looking builds along with plenty of room and numerous case cooling options. The 780T comes with three 140mm Corsair fans pre-installed with numerous mounting locations for additional fans. The 780T also provides excellent support for liquid cooling with mounting locations for two 360mm radiators. The full-tower enclosure can mount E-ATX and XL-ATX motherboards with room for multiple, high-end graphic adapters up to 14” (355mm) in length. There are currently 16 different models in the Graphite Series ranging in price from $69.99 up to $189.99 USD.
Graphite Series 780T Black ($179.99) Graphite Series 780T White ($189.99)
In this review we will be taking a detailed look at the Graphite Series 780T White Full-Tower case. Here is what Corsair has to say about their new 780T enclosure: “The stunning Graphite Series 780T Full-Tower PC case can satisfy the most hardcore gamer or overclocker with ample room for nine drives and nearly a dozen large cooling fans. Into water cooling? You’ll appreciate the generous space for dual 360mm radiators. And, you’ll get everything done faster: the 780T offers easy maintenance shortcuts like tool-free removal of side panels and hard drives. A three-speed fan control button and generous options for peripheral connections make the front-panel a true time saver.”
Graphite Series 780T Full-Tower Case Key Features:
• Large, Full-Tower PC case (available in black or white)
• Premium design with rounded corners and sleek, cohesive styling
• Latched side panels for easy tool-free access
• Large acrylic side window to show off internal components
• Dual 140mm LED intake fans and a 140mm exhaust fan included
• Locations for up to nine total case fans
• Supports 120mm, 240mm, and 360mm radiators for water-cooling
• Supports XL-ATX, E-ATX, ATX, MicroATX and Mini-ITX motherboards
• Six 3.5” / 2.5” tool-less HDD/SSD bays (can be removed if not needed)
• Three 2.5” tool-less SSD bays
• Three-speed fan control switch on top panel with LED gauge
• Two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0 ports on top panel
• Two 5.25” front exposed drive bays
• Removable mesh dust filters (front, top, and bottom)
• Up to 355mm (14”) of space for long graphics cards
• Up to 200mm (7.8”) of space for CPU coolers
• Cable routing cutouts to keep cables out of the airflow path
The 780T White Full-Tower case features a beautiful white matte finish with black accents. All internal surfaces finished in black. The two 140mm intake fans behind the front grill incorporate white LEDs (the black version comes with red LEDs).
Announced just this past June at last year’s Google I/O event, Android TV is a platform developed by Google, running Android 5.0 and higher, that aims to create an interactive experience for the TV. This platform can be built into a TV directly as well as into set-top style boxes, like the NVIDIA SHIELD we are looking at today. The idea is to bring the breadth of apps and content to the TV through the Android operating system in a way that is both convenient and intuitive.
NVIDIA announced SHIELD back in March at GDC as the first product to use the company’s latest Tegra processor, the X1. This SoC combines an 8-core big.LITTLE ARM processor design with a 256-core implementation of the NVIDIA Maxwell GPU architecture, providing GPU performance previously unseen in an Android device. I have already spent some time with the NVIDIA SHIELD at various events and the promise was clearly there to make it a leading option for Android TV adoption, but obviously there were questions to be answered.
Today’s article will focus on my early impressions with the NVIDIA SHIELD, having used it both in the office and at home for a handful of days. As you’ll see during the discussion there are still some things to be ironed out, some functionality that needs to be added before SHIELD and Android TV can really be called a must-buy product. But I do think it will get there.
And though this review will focus on the NVIDIA SHIELD, it’s impossible not to marry the success of SHIELD with the success of Google’s Android TV. The dominant use case for SHIELD is as a media playback device, with the gaming functionality as a really cool side project for enthusiasts and gamers looking for another outlet. For SHIELD to succeed, Google needs to prove that Android TV can improve over other integrated smart TV platforms as well as other set-top box platforms like Boxee, Roku and even the upcoming Apple TV refresh.
But first, let’s get an overview of the NVIDIA SHIELD device, pricing and specifications, before diving into my experiences with the platform as a whole.
Big Things, Small Packages
Sapphire isn’t a brand we have covered in a while, so it is nice to see a new and interesting product drop on our door. Sapphire was a relative unknown until around the release of the Radeon 9700 Pro days. This was around the time when ATI decided that they did not want to be so vertically integrated, so allowed other companies to start buying their chips and making their own cards. This was done to provide a bit of stability for ATI pricing, as they didn’t have to worry about a volatile component market that could cause their margins to plummet. By selling just the chips to partners, ATI could more adequately control margins on their own product while allowing their partners to make their own deals and component choices for the finished card.
ATI had very limited graphics card production of their own, so they often would farm out production to second sources. One of these sources ended up turning into Sapphire. When ATI finally allowed other partners to produce and brand their own ATI based products, Sapphire already had a leg up on the competition by being a large producer already of ATI products. They soon controlled a good portion of the marketplace by their contacts, pricing, and close relationship with ATI.
Since this time ATI has been bought up by AMD and they no longer produce any ATI branded cards. Going vertical when it come to producing their own chips and video cards was obviously a bad idea, we can look back at 3dfx and their attempt at vertical integration and how that ended for the company. AMD obviously produces an initial reference version of their cards and coolers, but allows their partners to sell the “sticker” version and then develop their own designs. This has worked very well for both NVIDIA and AMD, and it has allowed their partners to further differentiate their product from the competition.
Sapphire usually does a bang up job on packaging the graphics card. Oh look, a mousepad!
Sapphire is not as big of a player as they used to be, but they are still one of the primary partners of AMD. It would not surprise me in the least if they still produced the reference designs for AMD and then distributed those products to other partners. Sapphire is known for building a very good quality card and their cooling solutions have been well received as well. The company does have some stiff competition from the likes of Asus, MSI, and others for this particular market. Unlike those two particular companies, Sapphire obviously does not make any NVIDIA based boards. This has been a blessing and a curse, depending on what the cycle is looking like between AMD and NVIDIA and who has dominance in any particular marketplace.
Introduction: Improving Portable Sound
The Calyx PaT is very small USB DAC and headphone amp that can be used with PCs and mobile devices, offering the possibility of better sound from just about any digital source. So how does it sound? Let’s find out!
The PaT is a very interesting little device, to be sure. It rather resembles a large domino and weighs less than 1 ounce thanks to an ultra-light aluminum construction. It requires no battery or power source other than its micro USB connection, yet it provides sufficient power (0.8 V output) for in-ear monitors and efficient headphones through its 3.5mm headphone jack. Inside is a proprietary mix of DAC and amplifier circuitry, and like other products produced by Calyx, a Korean company with little presence in the United States, there is the promise of a dedication to great sound. Did Calyx pull it off with the diminutive PaT?
Improving Portable Sound
Outboard DACs and headphone amplifiers for computers and mobile devices are nothing new, with recent products like AudioQuest’s Dragonfly a prime example in the portable USB DAC market (though it offers no mobile support). When I first heard about the PaT during CES it was still in the prototype stage, but I was interested because of the Calyx name if nothing else, as I already owned the Calyx M DAP and had been quite honestly blown away by the sound.
So what need might I have for the interestingly-named PaT (pronounced "paat", meaning "bean" in reference to the small size), which is itself a DAC that requires another device to play music files? It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to speak with Calyx president Seungmok Yi during CES (via video chat as I couldn’t attend the show) that I started realize that this could be a compelling product, not just for the $99 price tag - a bargain for an audiophile product - but because of how versatile the PaT can be. You don't have to identify as an "audiophile" to appreciate the clearer and more detailed sound of a good DAC, especially when so many of us simply haven't heard one (especially on mobile devices).
Introduction and Technical Specifications
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
The X99-Gaming 5P is the latest board to be branding as part of GIGABYTE's Champion Series of motherboards with enhanced overclocking and memory support common to board's in that series. The board also features the G1 Gaming-branding, clearly targeting the gaming crowd with is red and black aesthetics. The board supports all Intel LGA2011-3 based processors paired with DDR4 memory in up to a quad channel configuration. GIGABYTE priced the X99-Gaming 5P competitively with an MSRP of $309.99.
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
Courtesy of GIGABYTE
The X99-Gaming 5P was designed to take the abuse that enthusiast gamers put their boards through. The board features a 8+4-phase digital power system, using International Rectify Gen 4 digital PWM controllers and Gen 3 PowIRstage controllers, Server Level chokes, and long life Durable Black Solid capacitors. It also offers a superior sound solution for gaming, pairing together the Creative Sound Core3D&trade quad-core audio processor, high-end audio capacitors, and a removable OP-AMP.
Introduction and First Impressions
Supermicro recently entered the consumer space with a new line of enthusiast motherboards and today we’re looking at a gaming enclosure from the well-known enterprise manufacturer.
While many component manufacturers have diversified their product offerings to include everything from cooling fans to thumb drives, Supermicro is not a name that anyone familiar with the company would have likely suspected of this trend. With recent Z97 and X99 motherboard offerings Supermicro has made an effort to enter the enthusiast market with boards that don’t exactly look like gaming products, but this is to be expected from a company that specializes in the enterprise market.
It was something of a surprise to hear that Supermicro had created a new enclosure for the consumer segment, and even more so to hear that it was to be a gaming enclosure. And while the term “gaming” gets thrown around quite a bit the new enclosure does have the look we tend to associate with the moniker, with flashy red accents and a brushed aluminum front panel to go along with all-black steel enclosure.
High Bandwidth Memory
UPDATE: I have embedded an excerpt from our PC Perspective Podcast that discusses the HBM technology that you might want to check out in addition to the story below.
The chances are good that if you have been reading PC Perspective or almost any other website that focuses on GPU technologies for the past year, you have read the acronym HBM. You might have even seen its full name: high bandwidth memory. HBM is a new technology that aims to turn the ability for a processor (GPU, CPU, APU, etc.) to access memory upside down, almost literally. AMD has already publicly stated that its next generation flagship Radeon GPU will use HBM as part of its design, but it wasn’t until today that we could talk about what HBM actually offers to a high performance processor like Fiji. At its core HBM drastically changes how the memory interface works, how much power is required for it and what metrics we will use to compare competing memory architectures. AMD and its partners started working on HBM with the industry more than 7 years ago, and with the first retail product nearly ready to ship, it’s time to learn about HBM.
We got some time with AMD’s Joe Macri, Corporate Vice President and Product CTO, to talk about AMD’s move to HBM and how it will shift the direction of AMD products going forward.
The first step in understanding HBM is to understand why it’s needed in the first place. Current GPUs, including the AMD Radeon R9 290X and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980, utilize a memory technology known as GDDR5. This architecture has scaled well over the past several GPU generations but we are starting to enter the world of diminishing returns. Balancing memory performance and power consumption is always a tough battle; just ask ARM about it. On the desktop component side we have much larger power envelopes to work inside but the power curve that GDDR5 is on will soon hit a wall, if you plot it far enough into the future. The result will be either drastically higher power consuming graphics cards or stalling performance improvements of the graphics market – something we have not really seen in its history.
While it’s clearly possible that current and maybe even next generation GPU designs could still have depended on GDDR5 as the memory interface, the move to a different solution is needed for the future; AMD is just making the jump earlier than the rest of the industry.
Introduction and First Impressions
The ASUS ROG Gladius mouse features sleek styling and customizable lighting effects, but the biggest aspect is the underlying technology. With socketed Omron switches designed to be easily swapped and an adjustable 6400dpi optical sensor this gaming mouse offers a lot on paper. So how does it feel? Let's find out.
There are a few aspects to the way a mouse feels, including the shape, surface material, and overall weight. Beyond the physical properties there is the speed and accuracy of the sensor (which also affects hand movement) and of course the mouse buttons and scroll wheel. Really, there's a lot going on with a modern gaming mouse - a far cry from the "X-Y position indicator" that the inventors had nicknamed "mouse" in the 1960s.
One of the hallmarks of the ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers) lineup is the sheer amount of additional features the products tend to have. I use an ROG motherboard in my personal system, and even my micro-ATX board is stuffed with additional functionality (and the box is loaded with accessories). So it came as no surprise to me when I opened the Gladius mouse and began to look it over. Sure, the box contents aren't as numerous as one of the Maximus motherboards, but there's still quite a bit more than I've encountered with a mouse before.
Introduction and Specifications
Displays have been a hot item as of late here at PC Perspective. Today we are looking at the new Acer XB270HU. In short, this is an IPS version of the ASUS ROG Swift. For the long version, it is a 1440P, 144Hz, G-Sync enabled 27 inch display. This is the first G-Sync display released with an IPS panel, which is what makes this release such a big deal. Acer has been pushing hard on the display front, with recent releases of the following variable refresh capable displays:
- XB270H 27in 1080P 144Hz G-Sync
- XB280HK 28in 4K 60Hz G-SYnc
- XG270HU 27in 1440P 40-144Hz FreeSync
- XB270HU 27in 1440P 144Hz G-Sync < you are here
The last entry in that list is the subject of todays review, and it should look familiar to those who have been tracking Acer's previous G-Sync display releases:
Here's our video overview of this new display. I encourage you to flip through the review as there are more comparison pictures and information to go along.
Or: How to fall asleep at work.
I will be the first to admit that just a couple of weeks ago I had zero need for a gaming chair. But when 4GamerGear.com offered to send us one of the AKracing AK-6014 ergonomic executive units, I agreed. I went out of town for a week and returned to find the chair assembled and already in use by Ken, our go to video editor and engineer. Of course I had to steal it from him to take part in the "review" process and the results were great! As I sit here now in my Ikea office chair, writing up this post, while Ken sits just feet away tapping away on some edits, I can't help but want to use my authority to take it back.
The price is steep, but the added comfort you get from a chair like the AKracing model we tested is substantial. Every part of the design, based on a racing seat for a car, is built to keep you in place. But instead of preventing lateral movements caused from taking corners, this is more to keep your butt in place and your back straight to encourage good posture. The arm rests are height adjustable (as is the seat itself of course) and the back reclines for different desk and resting positions. You can lay it PAST flat for naps if you're into that kind of thing.
You can find these chairs for sale on Amazon in different color combinations with a current price of $349. It's expensive, I can't deny that. But it looks and feels way cooler than what you are sitting in right now. And aren't you worth it?
Introduction and First Impressions
The Define S from Fractal Design is a mid-tower enclosure based on the company’s excellent Define R5, and this version has a new interior for enhanced cooling support with an innovative approach to storage.
I've mentioned before that the PC enclosure market is crowded with options at every price point, but this can actually be a good thing because of the high level of individual preference this permits. Selecting a case is a multi-faceted thing, and while they all (well, mostly) keep components safely housed, once that need has been met there's a lot more to consider. Let's face it, aesthetics are important since the enclosure is the outward-facing representation of your build (and personal style). Support for your preferred type of cooling, storage, and future expandability are high on the list when selecting a finalist as well, and then there's the thermal/noise performance element to consider. It was Fractal Design's own Define R5 (review here) which offered a balanced approach to these needs, and while not looking especially flashy with understated style and a standard ATX layout, the R5 was an exceptionally well-done effort overall. Now, months later, enter the Define S.
With the Define R5 offering a solid combination of silence, expandability, and build quality, why would Fractal Design create another very similar case right on its heels? It’s all about giving people choice, and that’s something I can certainly stand behind - even when it means further segmenting a market that seems almost impossibly crowded now. And when we dive deeper into the Define S we see what is essentially a companion to the Define R5, and not a replacement. At first glance this might appear to be an identical case, but the interior layout clearly separates the two. In summary, the Define S loses 5.25” storage support found in the R5, and while that previous model had no less than 8 hard drive trays the S employs a novel approach to HDD support, but cuts the drive support from 8 standard 3.5" drives to just 3 in the process.
Some familiar scenery
If you thought that Intel was going to slow down on its iteration in the SFF (small form factor) system design, you were sadly mistaken. It was February when Intel first sent us a NUC based on Broadwell, an iterative upgrade over a couple of generations for this very small platform, 4" x 4", that showed proved to be interesting from a technology stand point but didn't shift expectations of the puck-sized PC business.
Today we are looking at yet another NUC, also using a Broadwell processor, though this time the CPU is running quite a bit faster, with Intel Iris 6100 graphics and a noticeably higher TDP. The Core i7-5557U is still a dual-core / HyperThreaded processor but it increases base and Turbo clocks by wide margins, offering as much as 35% better CPU performance and mainstream gaming performance boosts in the same range. This doesn't mean the NUC 5i7RYH will overtake your custom built desktop but it does make it a lot more palatable for everyday PC users.
Oh, and we have an NVMe PCI Express SSD inside this beast as well. (Waaaaaa??)