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Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

PC Components

It's that time of year again where the holidays are upon us, it's freezing outside, and balancing work, school, and family events makes us all a bit crazy. If you are still procrastinating on your holiday shopping or are just not sure what to get the techie that seems to have everything already, PC Perspective has you covered! And if you dare not venture outside into the winter wasteland, there is still time to order online and have it arrive in time!

Following the same format as previous years, the first set of pages are picks that the staff has put together collectively and are recommendations for things like PC hardware components like CPUs, graphics cards, and coolers, mobile hardware (phones, tablets, etc.), and finally accessories and audio. Beyond that, the staff members are given a section to suggest picks of their own that may not fit into one of the main categories but are still thoughtful and useful gift ideas!

Good luck out there, and thank you for another wonderful year of your valued readership! May you have safe travels and memorable holidays!

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Image courtesy maf04 via Flickr creative commons.

Processors

Intel Core i7-6700K Quad-Core Unlocked Processor - $344, Amazon

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It's a bit of an interesting time for CPUs with Intel's Kaby Lake (e.g. 7700K) not out yet and AMD's Ryzen Zen-based (e.g. 8 core Summit Ridge) processors slated for release early next year. Last year the i7-6700K was  our top pick, and due to timing of upcoming releases, it is still the pick for this year though it may be wise to look at other gift ideas this year unless they really want that gaming PC ASAP. On the plus side, it is a bit cheaper than last year! You can read our review of the Core i7 6700K here.

AMD Athlon X4 880K Unlocked Quad Core - $92, Amazon

On the AMD side of things, the Athlon X4 880K is a great processor to base a budget gaming build around. The pricing works out a bit cheaper than the old 860K as well as offering slightly faster clockspeeds and a better stock cooler.

Continue reading our holiday gift guide for our picks for graphics cards, storage, and more!

Graphics Cards

NVIDIA GTX 1080 (EVGA FTW Hybrid) - $730, EVGA (Amazon has non FTW Hybrid for $700)

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The NVIDIA GTX 1080 is the current consumer-grade performance king, and there are a number of brands to choose from. Whichever you go with, the Pascal-based graphics card is ready for 1440 and even 4k gaming along with VR (virtual reality) gaming. The EVGA FTW Hybrid is a beast of a card that can easily be overclocked with keeping temperatures in check.

If you are looking for something a bit cheaper, AMD's RX 480 is a great midrange graphics card that can easily do 1080p with the details cranked up. Sapphire has a good factory overclocked card with the RX 480 Nitro+ which can be found for $250. For reference, check out our reviews on the RX 480 (we also have a video of the Sapphire card specifically) and it's competitor the GTX 1060.

Storage

Samsung 960 Evo 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD - $480, Amazon

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Samsung's recently released 960 Evo is not the fastest SSD available, but it's no slouch either. Using Samsung's TLC V-NAND flash, its Polaris controller, and 1GB of DDR3 cache, the drive packs 1TB of speedy storage into the M.2 form factor. The NVMe SSD is rated at 3,200 MB/s sequential reads, 1,900 MB/s sequential writes, 380,000 4k random reads and 360,000 4k random writes (IOPS ratings at QD32). It is rated at 1.5 million hours MTBF and while it does not have the lifetime or write speeds of the pro version (960 Pro), it is quite a bit cheaper! The gamer in your life will appreciate the super fast loading times too!

If you are looking for something a bit more down to earth, SATA SSDs continue to get cheaper and more capacious and there are even some good budget M.2 options these days!

MyDigitalSSD BPX 480GB NVMe M.2 SSD - $200, Amazon

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MyDigitalSSD's BPX solid state drive pairs a Phison PS5007-E7 controller with up to 480GB of 2D MLC NAND. The drive is rated at a respectable 2,600 MB/s sequential reads, 1,300 MB/s sequential writes, and approximately 208,728 4k random read IOPS and 202,713 4k random write IOPS. Despite being from a less well known company, the budget drive puts up very nice numbers for the price and comes with a 5 year warranty, 2 million hours MTBF rating, and 1,400 TB total bytes written rating on the flash. Pricing is much more budget friendly at $200 for the 480GB model, $115 for the 240GB, and $70 for the 120GB drive.

SATA SSD Recommendations

SATA SSDs are still great options for a system build and/or HDD upgrade, and Allyn has a few picks later on in this guide.

The following pages are individual selections / gift ideas from each staff member!

Continue with the rest of our last minute holiday gift guide for nerds!!

Fatal1ty, you Monster! The FXM 200 gaming headset

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2016 - 05:49 PM |
Tagged: fatal1ty, monster, FXM 200, gaming headset, audio

Ah Monster, forever famous for their cable pricing.  Surprisingly the Fatal1ty FXM 200 gaming headset is a mere $95, an amazing value as they feature both Hex720 Sound Chamber Technology and Game-tuned Pure Monster Sound!  Surprisingly, The Tech Report were impressed with the quality of gaming audio which came out of this headset and had no reservations in recommending it for gamers, either single player or online.  However that quality did not extend to listening to music, as the quality of audio suffered greatly when listening to various tracks.  This does make sense as Fatal1ty products are made for gamers, not audiophiles.  Drop by for a look at their full review here.

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"Famed gamer Fatal1ty has joined up with Monster to produce a pair of signature headsets: the FXM 100 and FXM 200. We put the FXM 200 to the test to see whether its performance lives up to that fabled name."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Have tape over your webcam? Might want to fill your headphones with wax as well!

Subject: General Tech | November 24, 2016 - 12:35 PM |
Tagged: security, hack, audio, Realtec

Security researchers have discovered a way to flip an output channel on onboard Realtec audio into an input channel, thus turning your headphones into an unpowered microphone.  The ability of a speaker or headphone to be used as a microphone is not news to anyone who has played around with headphones or input jacks, but it is possible some readers had deprived childhoods and have never tried this.  While you cannot mitigate this vulnerability permanently you could certainly notice it as your headphones would no longer play audio if the port is configured as input. 

Drop by Slashdot a link, and if you have never tried this out before you really should find an old pair of headphones and experiment with ports as well as snipping off one side of a pair of earbuds.  One supposes iPhone 7 users need not worry.

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"In short, the headphones were nearly as good as an unpowered microphone at picking up audio in a room. It essentially "retasks" the RealTek audio codec chip output found in many desktop computers into an input channel. This means you can plug your headphones into a seemingly output-only jack and hackers can still listen in. This isn't a driver fix, either."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Slashdot

CM MasterPulse Pro Gaming Headset; the only drivers you need are the magnetic kind

Subject: General Tech | November 15, 2016 - 01:24 PM |
Tagged: MasterPulse Pro Gaming Headset, coolermaster, audio, 7.1 headset

Cooler Master's MasterPulse Pro Gaming Headset offers virtual 7.1 surround, with 44mm drivers which have a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz.  All software duties are performed by the fairly large sized inline controls; the headset will not work on a phone or plane but will work on anything with USB audio capabilities.  Overclockers Club tried the headset out and they discovered these things are incredibly loud, even when the volume on the headset is turned down as far as possible.  This is somewhat of a negative when listening to media as you need to adjust your system volume down significantly, however for gaming they found it to be beneficial when listening for directional clues such as footsteps.  Take a read through the full review to see what you think about the MasterPulse Pro.

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"This is where the CM MasterPulse Pro set really stands out: gaming. The extensive bass response along with the ability to go LOUD allows you to crank up the volume to hear the details while still getting rocked with crystal clear and thunderous explosions. Because of the prodigious output, it's very easy to hear quiet sounds you might normally miss, while also placing things quite easily in terms of direction."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Cooler Master MasterPulse Pro, giving the bass more room to breathe

Subject: General Tech | October 27, 2016 - 02:00 PM |
Tagged: coolermaster, MasterPulse Pro, gaming headset, audio

The feature which Cooler Master would like you to focus on when listening to their MasterPulse Pro is the bass, specifically their Bass FX.  The covers on the ear cups are magnetic, allowing you to swap between a closed ear cup or open concept audio experience in an instant; apparently when open you let the bass breath like a fine wine.  Does this have any effect or is it the 44mm drivers and inline soundcard which could make these your next headphones?  Check out Kitguru and see what you think.

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"As important as having a decent keyboard and mouse is for any enthusiast PC gaming setup, having decent audio quality should also be on the priority list. Today, we are taking a look at the Cooler Master ‘MasterPulse’ Gaming Headset, aiming to offer a ‘groundbreaking audio experience’ with its new headphone drivers and patented Bass FX technology. "

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: Kitguru

Kingston's affordable HyperX Cloud Stinger gaming headset

Subject: General Tech | October 3, 2016 - 03:17 PM |
Tagged: kingston hyper x, kingston, gaming headset, Cloud Stinger, audio

Kingston have updated their line of gaming headsets with the new HyperX Cloud Stinger, available already for ~$50.  This makes them attractive for those who do not often use a gaming headset but might want one around just in case.  The low price could make you underestimate the design, Kingston used 50mm drivers and the microphone mutes itself the moment you swing it away from your voice hole.  That said, Overclockers Club were not in love with the quality of the sound compared to expensive headphones, but for this price point they have no qualms about recommending these for casual use.

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"Overall, I'm quite impressed with the HyperX Cloud Stinger Gaming Headset. A mouth full just to say that – but after disliking the HyperX Cloud Revolver as much as I did – I'm actually quite happy with this drop in price and slight redesign. With closed ear cups I would have expected a little more in the bass-land, it wasn't the end of the world. The overall sound is nice and flat, and movies, music, and games are all quite tolerable in the closed environment."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Shove some aluminium in your ears, Kennerton's Audio Laguz earbuds

Subject: General Tech | September 8, 2016 - 02:32 PM |
Tagged: laguz, audio, Kennerton, earbuds

Though they somewhat resemble tiny microphones, these Kennerton Audio Laguz are indeed in-ear headphones.  They may not work on the new iPhone without an adapter but for anything else the standard plug will work just fine.  These $110 earbuds have tiny 8mm dynamic driver with a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz.  The metal body and stress relief should ensure these headphones last a while but the price is somewhat steep, then again TechPowerUp didn't seem to find that price off-putting.

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"Kennerton Audio's newest mid-end offering, the Laguz, is put to the test. Priced at $110, it will face fierce competition from the Brainwavz S5 and HiFiMAN RE-400. The Laguz is absolutely tiny and features a rugged aluminum design that is pretty unique."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: TechPowerUp

Helicopter headphones from ARCTIC, for AirWolf enthusiasts and ... others

Subject: General Tech | August 11, 2016 - 03:51 PM |
Tagged: audio, arctic, P533 Military, gaming headset

Arctic has a rather unique product up for sale, an analog gaming headset modelled after the style you would see a helicopter pilot on TV wearing.  The P533 Military Stereo Headset utilizes the standard 40mm neodymium drivers common to many headsets with a dynamic range of 20Hz-20KHz, 32Ohm impedance and 95dB sensitivity.  The microphone boom is longer than usual and features several joints to allow you to position it exactly where you want.  The P533 also has an integrated volume control knob on the outside of the right ear cup as opposed to inline on the cord, which ends in 3.5mm jacks.  There is no doubt that the hard, rounded cups are unique looking although perhaps not what most of us are looking for.  Check out Nikktech's review of the P533, even if it is just to see the design of these things.

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"It may not be the best attack helicopter headset clone in the market today but the P533 Military Stereo Headset by ARCTIC might just be the most affordable one."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: Nikktech

DIY HiFi; build yourself electrostatic speakers and show them off

Subject: General Tech | August 8, 2016 - 03:38 PM |
Tagged: audio, electrostatic speaker, DIY

Instead of focusing on the troubling security holes reported on today how about you distract yourself by reading up on electrostatic speakers and how to make them yourself.  Electrostatic loudspeakers differ from conventional magnetic speakers as they use the attraction and repulsion of a thin conductive film in an electric field to create sound waves.  This allows the speakers to produce audio with very little distortion and comparatively flat frequency response but also comes with a drawback; half the audio is sent backwards and there is no easy way to reflect it to the front.  Check out the build process and material required to create your own unique high end speakers over at Hack a Day.

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"Any thin flexible plastic film can make a noise in an electrostatic speaker, but for best performance the thinner your film, the better. 5 micron thick Mylar seems to be the preferred choice."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Hack a Day

HiFiMAN's high end, high priced Edition X Planar Magnetic Headphones

Subject: General Tech | July 22, 2016 - 03:50 PM |
Tagged: audio, hifiman, Edition X, planar

As opposed to the more common dynamic driver, the Edition X uses lighter and more responsive planar drivers.  These tend to provide much better sound but also come with a very hefty price tag, in this particular case an $1800 one.  That puts these headphones soundly into the audiophile and professional market as opposed to being intended for gamers.  In testing TechPowerUp found these to be not quite as clear as the HE-1000 model but they were more comfortable.  If you are looking for high end headphones or just like window shopping you can read the full review here.

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"HiFiMAN's newest high-end headphone, the Edition X, bears a striking resemblance to their flagship HE-1000. It uses the same driver design without the fancy nano materials found in the $1200 more expensive HE-1000, but is, at $1799, still the second most expensive headphone in HiFiMAN's line-up."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Source: TechPowerUp