Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS ROG Poseidon GTX 780 video card is the latest incarnation of the Republic of Gamer (ROG) Poseidon series. Like the previous Poseidon series products, the Poseidon GTX 780 features a hybrid cooler, capable of air and liquid-based cooling for the GPU and on board components. The AUS ROG Poseidon GTX 780 graphics card comes with an MSRP of $599, a premium price for a premium card .

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Courtesy of ASUS

In designing the Poseidon GTX 780 graphics card, ASUS packed in many of premium components you would normally find as add-ons. Additionally, the card features motherboard quality power components, featuring a 10 phase digital power regulation system using ASUS DIGI+ VRM technology coupled with Japanese black metallic capacitors. The Poseidon GTX 780 has the following features integrated into its design: DisplayPort output port, HDMI output port, dual DVI ports (DVI-D and DVI-I type ports), aluminum backplate, integrated G 1/4" threaded liquid ports, dual 90mm cooling fans, 6-pin and 8-pin PCIe-style power connectors, and integrated power connector LEDs and ROG logo LED.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS ROG Poseidon GTX 780 graphics card!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

DX11 could rival Mantle

The big story at GDC last week was Microsoft’s reveal of DirectX 12 and the future of the dominant API for PC gaming.  There was plenty of build up to the announcement with Microsoft’s DirectX team posting teasers and starting up a Twitter account of the occasion. I hosted a live blog from the event which included pictures of the slides. It was our most successful of these types of events with literally thousands of people joining in the conversation. Along with the debates over the similarities of AMD’s Mantle API and the timeline for DX12 release, there are plenty of stories to be told.

After the initial session, I wanted to setup meetings with both AMD and NVIDIA to discuss what had been shown and get some feedback on the planned direction for the GPU giants’ implementations.  NVIDIA presented us with a very interesting set of data that both focused on the future with DX12, but also on the now of DirectX 11.

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The reason for the topic is easy to decipher – AMD has built up the image of Mantle as the future of PC gaming and, with a full 18 months before Microsoft’s DirectX 12 being released, how developers and gamers respond will make an important impact on the market. NVIDIA doesn’t like to talk about Mantle directly, but it’s obvious that it feels the need to address the questions in a roundabout fashion. During our time with NVIDIA’s Tony Tamasi at GDC, the discussion centered as much on OpenGL and DirectX 11 as anything else.

What are APIs and why do you care?

For those that might not really understand what DirectX and OpenGL are, a bit of background first. APIs (application programming interface) are responsible for providing an abstraction layer between hardware and software applications.  An API can deliver consistent programming models (though the language can vary) and do so across various hardware vendors products and even between hardware generations.  They can provide access to feature sets of hardware that have a wide range in complexity, but allow users access to hardware without necessarily knowing great detail about it.

Over the years, APIs have developed and evolved but still retain backwards compatibility.  Companies like NVIDIA and AMD can improve DirectX implementations to increase performance or efficiency without adversely (usually at least) affecting other games or applications.  And because the games use that same API for programming, changes to how NVIDIA/AMD handle the API integration don’t require game developer intervention.

With the release of AMD Mantle, the idea of a “low level” API has been placed in the minds of gamers and developers.  The term “low level” can mean many things, but in general it is associated with an API that is more direct, has a thinner set of abstraction layers, and uses less translation from code to hardware.  The goal is to reduce the amount of overhead (performance hit) that APIs naturally impair for these translations.  With additional performance available, the CPU cycles can be used by the program (game) or be slept to improve battery life. In certain cases, GPU throughput can increase where the API overhead is impeding the video card's progress.

Passing additional control to the game developers, away from the API or GPU driver developers, gives those coders additional power and improves the ability for some vendors to differentiate. Interestingly, not all developers want this kind of control as it requires more time, more development work, and small teams that depend on that abstraction to make coding easier will only see limited performance advantages.

The reasons for this transition to a lower level API is being driven the by widening gap of performance between CPU and GPUs.  NVIDIA provided the images below.

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On the left we see performance scaling in terms of GFLOPS and on the right the metric is memory bandwidth. Clearly the performance of NVIDIA's graphics chips has far outpaced (as have AMD’s) what the best Intel desktop processor have been able and that gap means that the industry needs to innovate to find ways to close it.

Continue reading NVIDIA Talks DX12, DX11 Efficiency Improvements!!!

Manufacturer: Cooler Master

Introduction and Features

Cooler Master continues to offer a full line of cases, power supplies, and coolers along with numerous other accessories for PC enthusiasts. Today we will be taking a detailed look at Cooler Master’s new V Series 850W power supply.

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(Courtesy of Cooler Master)

It has been quite some time since we last reviewed a Cooler Master power supply and we were happy to see one show up recently on the test lab doorstep. We were even happier to learn that the new Cooler Master V Series, which includes three units: the V700, B850 and V1000, are all built by Seasonic, who has a stellar reputation for building some of the best PC power supplies on the planet. All three power supplies in the V Series incorporate all modular cabling, high efficiency (80Plus Gold certified), high quality Japanese made capacitors, a silent 135mm fan with a Fluid Dynamic Bearing, and they come backed by Cooler Master’s 5-year warranty. In addition, the V Series power supplies deliver excellent voltage regulation (particularly on the +12V output) with minimal AC ripple and noise. The Cooler Master V850 power supply is currently selling for $169.99 (newegg.com, March 2014).

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Here is what Cooler Master has to say about their new V Series PSUs:

Developed to be the highest quality, Cooler Master carefully sourced every aspect of the V Series PSU line to produce a high-efficiency and stable power supply. It’s highly efficient even at low loads, extremely stable, and works well beyond the parameters of 80Plus specifications.

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Cooler Master V Series 850W PSU Key Features:

•    Fully modular cable design
•    Single 850W +12V output that delivers up to 70A (840W)
•    80Plus Gold Certified: up to 93% efficient @ 50% load)
•    Silent 135mm Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) fan for low noise and longer life
•    Six PCI-E 6+2 pin connectors to support high-end GPUs
•    100% high-quality Japanese capacitors ensure performance and reliability
•    Reliable 5-Year warranty

Please continue reading our review of the Cooler Master V850 PSU!!!

Subject: Editorial, Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction and Background

Introduction:

Back in 2010, Intel threw a bit of a press thing for a short list of analysts and reviewers out at their IMFT flash memory plant at Lehi, Utah. The theme and message of that event was to announce 25nm flash entering mass production. A few years have passed, and 25nm flash is fairly ubiquitous, with 20nm rapidly gaining as IMFT scales production even higher with the smaller process. Last week, Intel threw a similar event, but instead of showing off a die shrink or even announcing a new enthusiast SSD, they chose to take a step back and brief us on the various design, engineering, and validation testing of their flash storage product lines.

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At the Lehi event, I did my best to make off with a 25nm wafer.

Many topics were covered at this new event at the Intel campus at Folsom, CA, and over the coming weeks we will be filling you in on many of them as we take the necessary time to digest the fire hose of intel (pun intended) that we received. Today I'm going to lay out one of the more impressive things I saw at the briefings, and that is the process Intel goes through to ensure their products are among the most solid and reliable in the industry.

Read on for more on how Intel tests their products!

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

EVGA GTX 750 Ti ACX FTW

The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti has been getting a lot of attention around the hardware circuits recently, but for good reason.  It remains interesting from a technology stand point as it is the first, and still the only, Maxwell based GPU available for desktop users.  It's a completely new architecture which is built with power efficiency (and Tegra) in mind. With it, the GTX 750 Ti was able to push a lot of performance into a very small power envelope while still maintaining some very high clock speeds.

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NVIDIA’s flagship mainstream part is also still the leader when it comes to performance per dollar in this segment (for at least as long as it takes for AMD’s Radeon R7 265 to become widely available).  There has been a few cases that we have noticed where the long standing shortages and price hikes from coin mining have dwindled, which is great news for gamers but may also be bad news for NVIDIA’s GPUs in some areas.  Though, even if the R7 265 becomes available, the GTX 750 Ti remains the best card you can buy that doesn’t require a power connection. This puts it in a unique position for power limited upgrades. 

After our initial review of the reference card, and then an interesting look at how the card can be used to upgrade an older or under powered PC, it is time to take a quick look at a set of three different retail cards that have made their way into the PC Perspective offices.

On the chopping block today we’ll look at the EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti ACX FTW, the Galaxy GTX 750 Ti GC and the PNY GTX 750 Ti XLR8 OC.  All of them are non-reference, all of them are overclocked, but you’ll likely be surprised how they stack up.

Continue reading our round up of EVGA, Galaxy and PNY GTX 750 Ti Graphics Cards!!

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Corsair

Corsair expanded from a known presence in the memory space to well-respected entity in the component market, offering everything from cases to all-in-one water coolers. Their newest cooler, the Hydro Series™ H75 Liquid CPU Cooler, features a 120mm x 25mm radiator with dual fans and a copper-based water block. The H75 unit includes mounting support for all current Intel and AMD processor offerings. To gage the performance of the cooler, we set it against several other high-performance liquid and air-based coolers. With a retail MSRP of $84.99, the Hydro Series™ H75 cooler is priced to be competitive.

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Courtesy of Corsair

The Hydro Series™ H75 cooler was designed to be a "one size fits all" type cooler, having no space issues fitting in most cases including some of the larger mITX style cases. Corsair used Asetek as an OEM to assist in manufacturing the H75 and appears to be based on the Asetek 550LC all-in-one cooler. As we've seen previously with Corsair OEM products, Corsair had a hand in tweaking the cooler design to meet their performance and aesthetic expectations. The radiator in an all aluminum, thin-finned unit designed to effectively dissipate heat from the liquid medium using the two include Corsair-branded fans.

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Courtesy of Corsair

The water block is composed of a two part acrylic top piece, housing the unit's electronics and pump, held to a copper cold plate secured with an inner and outer ring of screws. The inner ring of screws are counter-sunk to prevent mating-related obstruction and was polished to a mirror-like luster.

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Courtesy of Corsair

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Hydro™ Series H75 all-in-one liquid cooler!

Author:
Manufacturer: NZXT

Installation

When the Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X first launched last year, they were plagued by issues of overheating and variable clock speeds.  We looked at the situation several times over the course of a couple months and AMD tried to address the problem with newer drivers.  These drivers did help stabilize clock speeds (and thus performance) of the reference built R9 290 and R9 290X cards but caused noise levels to increase as well.  

The real solution was the release of custom cooled versions of the R9 290 and R9 290X from AMD partners like ASUS, MSI and others.  The ASUS R9 290X DirectCU II model for example, ran cooler, quieter and more consistently than any of the numerous reference models we had our hands on.  

But what about all those buyers that are still purchasing, or have already purchased, reference style R9 290 and 290X cards?  Replacing the cooler on the card is the best choice and thanks to our friends at NZXT we have a unique solution that combines standard self contained water coolers meant for CPUs with a custom built GPU bracket.  

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Our quick test will utilize one of the reference R9 290 cards AMD sent along at launch and two specific NZXT products.  The Kraken X40 is a standard CPU self contained water cooler that sells for $100 on Amazon.com.  For our purposes though we are going to team it up with the Kraken G10, a $30 GPU-specific bracket that allows you to use the X40 (and other water coolers) on the Radeon R9 290.

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Inside the box of the G10 you'll find an 80mm fan, a back plate, the bracket to attach the cooler to the GPU and all necessary installation hardware.  The G10 will support a wide range of GPUs, though they are targeted towards the reference designs of each:

NVIDIA : GTX 780 Ti, 780, 770, 760, Titan, 680, 670, 660Ti, 660, 580, 570, 560Ti, 560, 560SE 
AMD : R9 290X, 290, 280X*, 280*, 270X, 270 HD7970*, 7950*, 7870, 7850, 6970, 6950, 6870, 6850, 6790, 6770, 5870, 5850, 5830
 

That is pretty impressive but NZXT will caution you that custom designed boards may interfere.

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The installation process begins by removing the original cooler which in this case just means a lot of small screws.  Be careful when removing the screws on the actual heatsink retention bracket and alternate between screws to take it off evenly.

Continue reading about how the NZXT Kraken G10 can improve the cooling of the Radeon R9 290 and R9 290X!!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Maximus VI Impact is ASUS' newest mini-ITX member of the Republic of Gamer (ROG) family. ASUS integrated design innovations from its Z77-based mITX board and added in some ROG-based innovations to come up with a wholly unique entity. With an MSRP of $229, the Maximus VI Impact comes in at the higher-end of the mITX price range with enough integrated features to more than justify the cost.

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Courtesy of ASUS

Similar to other members of the ROG-based Z87 releases, ASUS designed the Maximus VI Impact board with top of the line power components. The board's digital power system centers on an 8+2 phase power regulation system using 60 amp-rated BlackWing chokes, powIRstage MOSFETS, and 10k-rated Black Metallic capacitors. To save space on the board, the power components are mounted vertically on a hard-attached PCB to the right of the socket with the sound components and wireless networking on vertical removable cards to the upper left of the CPU socket and integrated into the board's rear panel.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Maximus VI Impact motherboard!

Subject: Memory
Manufacturer: Kingston

So Many MHz, So Little Time...

If you've looked at memory for your system lately you've likely noticed a couple of things. First, memory prices have held steady for the past few months, but are still nearly double what they were a little over a year ago. Second, now that DDR3 has been a mature standard for years, there is a vast selection of RAM from many vendors, all with nearly identical specs. The standard has settled at 1600MHz for DDR3, and most desktop memory is programmed for this speed. Granted, many modules run at overclocked speeds, and there are some out there with pretty outlandish numbers, too - and it’s one of those kits that we take a look at today.

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Hardly subtle, the Kingston HyperX 'Predator' dual channel kit for review today is clocked at a ridiculous 1066MHz OVER the 1600MHz standard. That's right, this is 2666MHz memory! It seems like such a big jump would have to provide increased system performance across the board, and that's exactly what we're going to find out.

We all want to get the most out of any component, and finding the best option at a given price is part of planning any new build or upgrade. While every core part is sold at a particular speed, and most can be overclocked, there are still some qualifying factors that make selecting the fastest part for your budget a little more complicated. Speed isn't based on MHz alone – as with processors, where it often comes down to number of cores, how many instructions per clock cycle a given CPU can churn out, etc.

Continue reading our review of the Kingston HyperX Predator 2666 MHz DDR3 memory kit!!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Maxwell and Kepler and...Fermi?

Covering the landscape of mobile GPUs can be a harrowing experience.  Brands, specifications, performance, features and architectures can all vary from product to product, even inside the same family.  Rebranding is rampant from both AMD and NVIDIA and, in general, we are met with one of the most confusing segments of the PC hardware market.  

Today, with the release of the GeForce GTX 800M series from NVIDIA, we are getting all of the above in one form or another. We will also see performance improvements and the introduction of the new Maxwell architecture (in a few parts at least).  Along with the GeForce GTX 800M parts, you will also find the GeForce 840M, 830M and 820M offerings at lower performance, wattage and price levels.

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With some new hardware comes a collection of new software for mobile users, including the innovative Battery Boost that can increase unplugged gaming time by using frame rate limiting and other "magic" bits that NVIDIA isn't talking about yet.  ShadowPlay and GameStream also find their way to mobile GeForce users as well.

Let's take a quick look at the new hardware specifications.

  GTX 880M GTX 780M GTX 870M GTX 770M
GPU Code name Kepler Kepler Kepler Kepler
GPU Cores 1536 1536 1344 960
Rated Clock 954 MHz 823 MHz 941 MHz 811 MHz
Memory Up to 4GB Up to 4GB Up to 3GB Up to 3GB
Memory Clock 5000 MHz 5000 MHz 5000 MHz 4000 MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit 256-bit 192-bit 192-bit
Features Battery Boost
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE
Battery Boost
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE

Both the GTX 880M and the GTX 870M are based on Kepler, keeping the same basic feature set and hardware specifications of their brethren in the GTX 700M line.  However, while the GTX 880M has the same CUDA core count as the 780M, the same cannot be said of the GTX 870M.  Moving from the GTX 770M to the 870M sees a significant 40% increase in core count as well as a jump in clock speed from 811 MHz (plus Boost) to 941 MHz.  

Continue reading about the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 800M Launch and Battery Boost!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Various

1920x1080, 2560x1440, 3840x2160

Join us on March 11th at 9pm ET / 6pm PT for a LIVE Titanfall Game Stream!  You can find us at http://www.pcper.com/live.  You can subscribe to our mailing list to be alerted whenever we have a live event!!

We canceled the event due to the instability of Titanfall servers.  We'll reschedule soon!!

With the release of Respawn's Titanfall upon us, many potential PC gamers are going to be looking for suggestions on compiling a list of parts targeted at a perfect Titanfall experience.  The good news is, even with a fairly low investment in PC hardware, gamers will find that the PC version of this title is definitely the premiere way to play as the compute power of the Xbox One just can't compete.

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In this story we'll present three different build suggestions, each addressing a different target resolution but also better image quality settings than the Xbox One can offer.  We have options for 1080p, the best option that the Xbox could offer, 2560x1440 and even 3840x2160, better known as 4K.  In truth, the graphics horsepower required by Titanfall isn't overly extreme, and thus an entire PC build coming in under $800, including a full copy of Windows 8.1, is easy to accomplish.

Target 1: 1920x1080

First up is old reliable, the 1920x1080 resolution that most gamers still have on their primary gaming display.  That could be a home theater style PC hooked up to a TV or monitors in sizes up to 27-in.  Here is our build suggestion, followed by our explanations.

  Titanfall 1080p Build
Processor Intel Core i3-4330 - $137
Motherboard MSI H87-G43 - $96
Memory Corsair Vengeance LP 8GB 1600 MHz (2 x 4GB) - $89
Graphics Card EVGA GeForce GTX 750 Ti - $179
Storage Western Digital Blue 1TB - $59
Case Corsair 200R ATX Mid Tower Case - $72
Power Supply Corsair CX 500 watt - $49
OS Windows 8.1 OEM - $96
Total Price $781 - Amazon Full Cart

Our first build comes in at $781 and includes some incredibly competent gaming hardware for that price.  The Intel Core i3-4330 is a dual-core, HyperThreaded processor that provides more than enough capability to push Titanfall any all other major PC games on the market.  The MSI H87 motherboard lacks some of the advanced features of the Z87 platform but does the job at a lower cost.  8GB of Corsair memory, though not running at a high clock speed, provides more than enough capacity for all the programs and applications you could want to run.

Continue reading our article on building a gaming PC for Titanfall!!

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of SilverStone

SilverStone Technology is a well known brand in the computer component space, offering high quality solutions for everything from cases to case-mounted fan controllers and displays. Their CPU air-coolers are some of the best in the industry with the latest incarnation being part of the Argon Series. The Argon Series AR01 CPU cooler is made for optimal cooling of your Intel socket 115X or AMD-based systems, comprised of a single aluminum radiator tied to a copper base-plate via a set of copper heat pipes with a 120mm fan for heat dissipation. To prove out the performance of the AR01 unit, we tested put it up against other high-performance liquid and air-based coolers. At a retail MSRP of $34.99, the AR01 cooler has a great performance to price ratio for its cooling potential.

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Courtesy of SilverStone

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Courtesy of SilverStone

Continue reading our review of the SilverStone Argon Series AR01 CPU air cooler!

Author:
Manufacturer: EVGA

Its been a while...

EVGA has been around for quite some time now.  They have turned into NVIDIA’s closest North American partner after the collapse of the original VisionTek.  At nearly every trade show or gaming event, EVGA is closely associated with whatever NVIDIA presence is there.  In the past EVGA focused primarily on using NVIDIA reference designs for PCB and cooling, and would branch out now and then with custom or semi-custom watercooling solutions.

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A very svelte and minimalist design for the shroud.  I like it.

The last time I actually reviewed an EVGA products was way back in May of 2006.  I took a look at the 7600 GS product, which was a passively cooled card.  Oddly enough, that card is sitting right in front of me as I write this.  Unfortunately, that particular card has a set of blown caps on it and no longer works.  Considering that the card has been in constant use since 2006, I would say that it held up very well for those eight years!

EVGA has been expanding their product lineup to be able to handle the highs and lows of the PC market.  They have started manufacturing motherboards, cases, and power supplies to help differentiate their product lineup and hopefully broaden their product portfolio.  We know from past experiences that companies that rely on one type of product from a single manufacturer (GPUs in this particular case) can experience some real issues if demand drops dramatically due to competitive disadvantages.  EVGA also has taken a much more aggressive approach to differentiating their products while keeping them within a certain budget.

The latest generation of GTX 700 based cards have seen the introduction of the EVGA ACX cooling solutions.  These dual fan coolers are a big step up from the reference design and puts EVGA on par with competitive products from Asus and MSI.  EVGA does make some tradeoffs as compared, but these are fairly minimal when considering the entire package.

Click here to read the entire review!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Low Power and Low Price

Back at CES earlier this year, we came across a couple of interesting motherboards that were neither AM3+ nor FM2+.  These small, sparse, and inexpensive boards were actually based on the unannounced AM1 platform.  This socket is actually the FS1b socket that is typically reserved for mobile applications which require the use of swappable APUs.  The goal here is to provide a low cost, upgradeable platform for emerging markets where price is absolutely key.

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AMD has not exactly been living on easy street for the past several years.  Their CPU technologies have not been entirely competitive with Intel.  This is their bread and butter.  Helping to prop the company up though is a very robust and competitive graphics unit.  The standalone and integrated graphics technology they offer are not only competitive, but also class leading in some cases.  The integration of AMD’s GCN architecture into APUs has been their crowning achievement as of late.

This is not to say that AMD is totally deficient in their CPU designs.  Their low power/low cost designs that started with the Bobcat architecture all those years back have always been very competitive in terms of performance, price, and power consumption.  The latest iteration is the Kabini APU based on the Jaguar core architecture paired with GCN graphics.  Kabini will be the part going into the FS1b socket that powers the AM1 platform.

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Kabini is a four core processor (Jaguar) with a 128 unit GCN graphics part (8 GCN cores).  These APUs will be rated at 25 watts up and down the stack.  Even if they come with half the cores, it will still be a 25 watt part.  AMD says that 25 watts is the sweet spot in terms of performance, cooling, and power consumption.  Go lower than that and too much performance is sacrificed, and any higher it would make more sense to go with a Trinity/Richland/Kaveri solution.  That 25 watt figure also encompasses the primary I/O functionality that typically resides on a standalone motherboard chipset.  Kabini features 2 SATA 6G ports, 2 USB 3.0 ports, and 8 USB 2.0 ports.  It also features multiple PCI-E lanes as well as a 4x PCI-E connection for external graphics.  The chip also supports DisplayPort, HDMI, and VGA outputs.  This is a true SOC from AMD that does a whole lot of work for not a whole lot of power.

Click here to read the rest of the article!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Western Digital

Introduction and Packaging

Introduction:

Last October, Western Digital launched the My Cloud. This device was essentially a network connected version of their My Book line of external hard drives, but with Internet connectivity and apps that could reach back to the My Cloud even when you were away from home. One month later, WD launched the My Cloud EX4, a much beefier version which supported redundant arrays of 4 hard disks, redundant network and power, and a load of other features. There was a rather large gap in features between these two devices, as the only RAID option was more of a small business one. Today Western Digital closed that gap:

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The My Cloud EX2 is essentially a My Cloud, but with dual drive bays, and a few additional features. Check out this projected trend below:

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You can see there was a definite void in the 2-drive range that needed filling. With those two drives, you get a few options for redundancy or capacity+speed:

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All standard RAID options for a 2-bay appliance are met here, though the vast majority of users should opt for the default RAID-1 mirrored set.

 

Packaging:

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Packaging is simple here with only a power adapter, ethernet cable, and quick start guide needed.

Read on for more on Western Digital's new My Cloud EX2!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Maximus VI Formula is among the newest members of the Republic of Gamer (ROG) product line. From the design of its ROG Armor to its power regulation circuitry, the Maximum VI Formula takes the ASUS Z87 motherboard line to a whole new level.  The Maximus VI Formula does not come cheap at an MSRP of $329.99, but it is a steal in light of all the high-end component ASUS packed under the hood.

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Courtesy of ASUS

ASUS designed the Maximus VI Formula with a top notch power delivery system, featuring an 8+2-phase digital power regulation system using BlackWing chokes, NexFET MOSFETS touting 90% efficiency, and 10k-rated Black Metallic capacitors. The ASUS integrated the following features into the Maximus VI Formula's design: 10 SATA 3 ports; an M.2 (NGFF) SSD slot integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo II card; an Intel I217-V GigE NIC; an Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth controller integrated into the ASUS mPCIe Combo II card; three PCI-Express x16 slots for up to tri-card support; three PCI-Express x1 slots; 2-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, CMOS clear, MemOK!, BIOS Flashback, ROG Connect, DirectKey, and BIOS switch buttons; Probelt voltage measurement points; OC Panel support; SupremeFX Formula audio solution; CrossChill Hybrid air and water cooled VRM cooling solution; ROG Armor overlay; and USB 2.0 and 3.0 port support.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Maximus VI Formula motherboard!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel
Tagged: SSD 730, ssd, Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Intel launched their first consumer SSD more than five years ago. Their very first SSD, the X25-M, might have gotten off to a bit of a rocky start, but once the initial bugs were worked out, it proved to be an excellent example of what a 3Gb/sec SATA SSD was capable of. While the competition was using 4 or 8 flash channels, Intel ran circles around them with their 10-channel controller. It was certainly a great concept, and it most definitely had legs. The very same controller, with only minor tweaks, was able to hold its own all the way through into the enterprise sector, doing so even though the competition was moving to controllers capable of twice the throughput (SATA 6Gb/sec).

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The various iterations featuring Intel's 10-channel controller, spanning the 20GB cache SSD (left), original X25M and X25-E (center), and  finally X25-M G2, SSD 320, and SSD 710 (right).

While the older controller was extremely nimble, it was bottlenecked by a slower interface than the competition, who had all moved to the more modern SATA 6Gb/sec link. Intel also moved into this area, but not with their own native controller silicon. The SSD 510 launched in 2011 equipped with a Marvell controller, followed by the SSD 520, launched in 2012 with a SandForce controller. While Intel conjured up their own firmware for these models, their own older and slower controller was still more nimble and reliable than those other solutions, proven by the fact that the SSD 710, an enterprise-spec SSD using the older 10-channel controller, was launched in tandem with the consumer SSD 510.

Fast forward to mid-2013, where Intel finally introduced their own native SATA 6Gb/s solution. This controller dropped the channel count to a more standard figure of 8, and while it did perform well, it was only available in Intel's new enterprise 'Data Center' line of SSDs. The SSD DC S3500 and SSD DC S3700 (reviewed here) were great drives, but they were priced too high for consumers. While preparing that review, I remember saying how that controller would be a great consumer unit if they could just make it cheaper and tune it for standard workloads. It appears that wish has just been granted. behold the Intel SSD 730:

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Continue reading our review of the Intel SSD 730!!

Manufacturer: Antec

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Antec

Antec is an established company and brand-name in the computer component space, offering quality solutions for everything from cases and power supplies to thermal paste and case-mounted fan controllers. Their latest foray is into the world of liquid cooling. The KUHLER H20 1250 is their flagship liquid cooler, featuring an all-in-one dual pump design, a 240mm x 120mm x 25mm aluminum radiator, and hardware monitoring support via the integrated USB cable and the included Antec Grid software. The KUHLER H2O 1250 comes standard with support for all current Intel and AMD CPU offerings. To gage the performance of Antec's flagship cooler, we set it against several other high-performance liquid and air-based coolers. With a retail MSRP of $109.99, the KUHLER H2O 1250 cooler comes at a premium for all the premium features it has to offer.

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Courtesy of Antec

The KUHLER H2O 1250 liquid cooler was designed for a single purpose, to keep your process as cool as possible. Antec includes two pumps with the unit, one integrated into each fan. The top pump pulls liquid through the radiator and pushes it to the CPU block through the radiator outlet, while the bottom pump pulls water from the CPU block through the radiator inlet and pushes it through the radiator towards the top pump.

Continue reading our review of the Antec KUHLER H20 1250 all-in-one liquid cooler!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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Alongside our T440s review unit was something slightly smaller and dear to our hearts: the latest entry in the ThinkPad X series of notebooks.  Seeing as this very review is being typed on a Lenovo X220, our interest was piqued by the latest refinements to the formula.  When the X220 was released, the thin-and-light trend was only just beginning to pick up steam leading into what eventually became today’s Ultrabook movement.  Its 2012 successor, the ThinkPad X230, went on to receive our coveted (and rarely bestowed) Editor’s Choice Award, even in spite of a highly controversial keyboard change that sent the fanbase into a panic.

But all of that has since (mostly) blown over, primarily thanks to the fact that—in spite of the minor ergonomic adjustments required to accustom oneself with what was once a jarringly different keyboard design—the basic philosophy remained the same: pack as many powerful parts as possible into a 12.5-inch case while still maintaining good durability and battery life.  These machines were every bit as capable as most other 13- and 14-inch notebooks of their time, and they were considerably smaller, too.  About the only thing they lacked was higher-resolution screens, discrete graphics, and quad-core CPUs.

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But with the X240 (and the T440s), portability has truly taken center stage, suggesting a complete paradigm shift—however subtly—away from “powerful (and light)” and toward “light (and powerful)”.  Coupled with Intel’s Haswell CPUs and Lenovo’s new Power Bridge dual-battery design, this will certainly yield great benefits in the realm of battery life.  But that isn’t all that’s different: we also find a (once again) revamped keyboard, as well as a completely new touchpad design which finally dispenses with the physical buttons entirely.  Like in the X230’s case, these changes have roiled the ThinkPad purists—but is it all just a matter of close-minded traditionalism?  That’s precisely what we’ll discover today.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Ultrabook!!

Author:
Manufacturer: ORIGIN PC

Mobile Gaming Powerhouse

Every once in a while, a vendor sends us a preconfigured gaming PC or notebook.  We don't usually focus too much on these systems because so many of readers are quite clearly DIY builders.  Gaming notebooks are another beast, though. Without going through a horrible amount of headaches, building a custom gaming notebook is a pretty tough task.  So, for users who are looking for a ton of gaming performance in a package that is mobile, going with a machine like the ORIGIN PC EON17-SLX is the best option.

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As the name implies, the EON17-SLX is a 17-in notebook that includes some really impressive specifications including a Haswell processor and SLI GeForce GTX 780M GPUs.

  ORIGIN PC EON17-SLX
Processor Core i7-4930MX (Haswell)
Cores / Threads 4 / 8
Graphics 2 x NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB
System Memory 16GB Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600
Storage 2 x 120GB mSATA SSD (RAID-0)
1 x Western Digital Black 750GB HDD
Wireless Intel 7260 802.11ac
Screen 17-in 1920x1080 LED Matte
Optical 6x Blu-ray reader / DVD writer
Extras Thunderbolt
Operating System Windows 8.1
Price ~$4500

Intel's Core i7-4930MX processor is actually a quad-core Haswell based CPU, not an Ivy Bridge-E part like you might guess based on the part number.  The GeForce GTX 780M GPUs each include 4GB of frame buffer (!!) and have very similar specifications to the desktop GTX 770 parts.  Even though they run at lower clock speeds, a pair of these GPUs will provide a ludicrous amount of gaming performance.

As you would expect for a notebook with this much compute performance, it isn't a thin and light. My scale tips at 9.5 pounds with the laptop alone and over 12 pounds with the power adapter included.  Images of the profile below will indicate not only many of the features included but also the size and form factor.

Continue reading our review of the ORIGIN PC EON17-SLX Gaming Notebook!!