Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: HyperX

A Tale of Two Form-Factors

HyperX (a division of Kingston) entered the mechanical keyboard market a year ago with the Alloy series, which began as a pair of 104-key designs with the Alloy Elite and Alloy FPS. Both keyboards feature Cherry MX keys, with the FPS sporting a minimalist design with a compact frame to save room on a desk. Now a TKL version of the FPS has arrived - the FPS Pro - to compliment the 104-key version already at the PC Perspective offices, and in this review we will test out both versions of this gaming keyboard.

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Both keyboards feature adjustable red backlighting

Features from HyperX for the Alloy FPS:

  • Compact design frees desktop space — waste less time reorienting the mouse
  • Solid-steel frame for stability, giving you supreme confidence in your controls
  • Ultra-portable design with detachable cable is great for LAN parties and tournaments
  • Cherry MX mechanical keys for tactile feedback and reliable keypresses
  • Convenient USB charge port allows you to charge other devices
  • Game mode, 100-percent Anti-Ghosting and full N-key rollover features ensure your inputs are correct
  • HyperX red backlit keys with customizable, dynamic lighting functions
  • Additional colored, textured keycaps spotlight the most important keys

Now take virtually the same feature list (minus the additional keycaps) and subtract the number pad, and you have the Alloy FPS Pro, an “ultra-minimalistic tenkeyless design ideal for FPS pros”, according to HyperX. This reduction in size and number of keys is accompanied by a reduction in price, and the Alloy FPS Pro will be 20% less expensive than the 104-key FPS when it launches in late August. How do these mechanical keyboards stack up? Read on for our full review!

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Continue reading our review of the HyperX Alloy FPS and FPS Pro mechanical gaming keyboards!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Specifications

For Intel’s Z270 chipset ECS has a pair of motherboard options, with the ATX Z270-LIGHTSABER and mini-ITX Z270H4-I. We have a look at both of these offerings today.

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The Z270-LIGHTSABER tries to live up to that name with customizable LED lighting around the board, which is controlled through the system setup. It boasts a 14-phase power delivery and all solid caps, and offers simplified overclocking through the ECS MIB X interface and Intel XMP 1.2 and 1.3 memory support. Additionally the LIGHTSABER offers comprehensive storage options with a PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot (Intel Optane is supported), U.2 port, and a full complement of SATA III ports. There is also a Killer E2500 NIC, and premium audio with a dedicated TI headphone amp, among the other features.

For its part the Z270H4-I packs many of the same features as its ATX cousin, though this mini-ITX motherboard only provides a 6-phase power design, and does not feature the LED lighting or dedicated headphone amp of the Z270-LIGHTSABER. It does provide the same full PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot with Intel Optane support, and while the Z270H4-I does not have a Killer NIC it replaces this with a pair including an Intel I-219V and Realtek LAN. The Z270H4-I also supports M.2 wireless cards and includes an optional pair of wireless antennae.

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I installed my Core i7-7700K in both motherboards and in addition to some baseline benchmarks I tried out some casual overclocking and will provide general usage impressions with both boards.

Continue reading our review of the ECS Z270-LIGHTSABER and Z270H4-I motherboards!

Introduction and Specifications

FSP might be familiar as a manufacturer of power supplies, but the company has a growing product offering that now includes cases and CPU coolers, among other things. In this review we will examine the Windale line, which consists of the Windale 4 and Windale 6, a pair of tower-style CPU air coolers.

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"FSP CPU Air Cooler Windale Series come out with two models: Windale 6 and Windale 4. Both of them are featured with CPU direct contact technology which can release CPU heat more efficiently. The 120mm extreme quiet fan enhances better cooling performance. The High-tech 120mm fin design provides optimized cooling effect. They are highly compatible with the latest sockets of Intel and AMD."

FSP has priced their coolers to compete in what is often called a 'crowded market', and the $29.99 Windale 4 in particular seems to directly compete with the ever-popular Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO - on price, if nothing else. Can FSP's first effort dethrone the EVO as a budget favorite? To this end we will see exactly how the Windale 4 and 6 perform against Cooler Master's venerable air cooler with a toasty Intel Core i7-7700K supplying the load temps (and my trusty SPL meter along for the ride to capture noise levels).

We will get right into it with a summary of the specifications for both FSP Windale coolers:


Windale 4 (model AC401)

  • Heatsink Material: Aluminum Alloy
  • Heat-pipe: 6 mm x4
  • Fan Speed: 600-1600 RPM (PWM) ± 15%
  • Bearing Type: Sleeve Bearing
  • Fan Air Flow: 60 CFM ± 10%
  • Dimensions (LxWxH): 122 x 83 x 158 mm
  • Weight: 620 g

Windale 6 (model AC601 - blue LED)

  • Heatsink Material: Aluminum Alloy with black plating
  • Heat-pipe: 6 mm x 6
  • Fan Speed 600-1600 RPM (PWM) ± 15%
  • Bearing Type: Sleeve Bearing
  • Fan Air Flow: 60 CFM ± 10%
  • Dimensions (LxWxH): 122 x 110 x 165 mm
  • Weight: 823 g

Continue reading our review of the FSP Windale 4 and 6 coolers!

Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Design

The ECS LIVA Z Plus is a mini-PC with far more capable processors than the non-Plus variants of the current LIVA family, and we have for review a version with the top-end Intel Core i5-7300U CPU option, along with a 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM. These specs position the LIVA Z Plus against similarly-powered Intel NUC mini-PCs, and the LIVA has the advantage of being ready to go out of the box (just add an OS).

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We recently took a look at the entry-level ECS LIVA mini-PC, which is a fanless device equipped with a low-power Intel Apollo Lake Celeron N3350 in its base configuration (as reviewed). The performance was merely 'okay' for most desktop computing, and that entry-level LIVA Z was more of a need-specific choice, useful for some applications such as a DIY router as it includes dual NICs in addition to the wireless networking on board. But I kept wishing I had more CPU power the entire time I was testing out the base LIVA Z, and the Plus version seemed like the perfect solution. There is just one catch: it isn't fanless. (Gasp!) Was this an issue? Was it even audible? How were thermals with a 15W Intel Core i5 processor inside such a small enclosure, even it is was being actively cooled? Read on to find out!

First, a look at the specs from ECS:


Specifications:

  • Platform:
    • Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7300U SOC
    • Intel Kaby Lake Core i5-7200U SOC
    • Intel Kaby Lake Core i3-7100U SOC
    • Intel Kaby Lake Celeron 3965U SOC
  • Memory:
    • DDR4 Up to 32GB
    • 2x SO-DIMM Memory Slots
  • Storage Support: 1x M.2 2242 SSD (SATA / PCIE)
  • Audio: 1x Combo Jack, 1x Digital Mic
  • LAN: 2x Gigabit LAN (1x Intel LAN)
  • USB:
    • 3x USB 3.1 Gen1 Ports
    • 1x USB 3.0 Type-C port
  • Video Output:
    • 1x HDMI Port (HDMI 1.4)
    • 1x mDP Port
  • Wireless: Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0
  • PCB Size: 115 x 111 mm
  • Dimension: 117 x 128 x 33 mm
  • VESA Support: 75 mm / 100 mm (bracket included)
  • Adapter: Input AC 100-240V, Output DC 19V / 3.42A
  • OS Support: Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, Windows 10
  • Accessories:
    • 1x Power adapter
    • 1x VESA Bracket
    • 6x VESA Mount Screws
    • Quick Guide & Driver DVD

  • ECS LIVA Z Plus: $489 MSRP

Package contents are identical to that of the non-Plus LIVA, as we are presented with the LIVA Z Plus, power adapter, and VESA mount.

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The LIVA Z Plus is externally identical to the LIVA Z, with the same complement of three USB 3.1 Gen1 ports, a USB 3.0 Type-C port, and 3.5 mm audio jack on the front, and dual NICs, HDMI 1.4, and mini DisplayPort on the back.

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The side panels are also identical to the passively-cooled LIVA Z, with vented sides that in this case allow for intake and exhaust for the small internal fan.

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If you think this LIVA Z Plus looks like the standard LIVA Z, you're right. Externally, the two are identical:

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Next we'll take a look inside and then see how it performed with a few benchmarks.

Continue reading our review of the ECS LIVA Z Plus!!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: ZALMAN

A Premium Mechanical Option Under $100

In the past year or two we have seen a number of sub-$100 mechanical gaming keyboards on the market, and several of these have passed through our hands here at the PC Perspective offices. The latest of these to garner our attention is the ZALMAN ZM-K900M, a premium gaming design featuring RGB lighting effects and Kailh Blue key switches, along with a 1000 Hz polling rate and full N-key rollover. It currently retails for $89.99, though it can be found for as little as $79.99 (currently, at least) with a little googling. How impressive is it in person? Read on to find out!

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The ZM-K900M offers a variety of RGB effects

The ZM-K900M certainly checks the right boxes as a gaming keyboard, with the above-mentioned 1000 Hz polling rate (which ZALMAN calls 'Z-Engine') and customizable RGB lighting, supports simulanious key presses for the full 104 keys, and offers programmable macro keys. All of the keyboard features are controlled via hot keys on the ZM-K900M itself, eliminating the need for software.

“The ZM-K900M requires no software installation and is universally compatible with any operating system. The macros automatically remember the time interval between the inputs and run exactly as you typed. The keyboard stores the data inside the keyboard so you can instantly run your macros on any computer.”


Features and specifications from ZALMAN:

  • Simple and minimal design
  • Equipped with Z-Engine
  • Supports USB and PS/2 connection
  • Intelligent hardware macro with option to add mouse clicks
  • Multimedia hotkeys
  • 4-stage macro speed adjustment
  • 6-key and N-Key rollover
  • Option to lock Windows key or entire keyboard
  • High quality laser-etched keycaps

Specifications:

  • Model: ZM-K900M
  • Keyboard Layout: 104-key
  • Key Switch: Kailh Blue mechanical key switch
  • Keyboard Matrix: USB & PS/2 N key rollover (anti-ghost function)
  • Key cap type: Step Sculpture 2
  • Interface: USB
  • Cable length: 5.6 ft
  • Dimensions: 17.32 x 5.51 x 1.34 inches, 2.75 lbs

Continue reading our review of the ZALMAN ZM-K900M RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Specifications

The ZenBook 3 UX390UA is a 12.5-inch thin-and-light which offers a 1920x1080 IPS display, choice of 7th-generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors, 16GB of DDR4 memory, and a roomy 512GB PCIe SSD. It also features just a single USB Type-C port, eschewing additional I/O in the vein of recent Apple MacBooks (more on this trend later in the review). How does it stack up? I had the pleasure of using it for a few weeks and can offer my own usage impressions (along with those ever-popular benchmark numbers) to try answering that question.

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A thin-and-light (a.k.a. ‘Ultrabook’) is certainly an attractive option when it comes to portability, and the ZenBook 3 certainly delivers with a slim 0.5-inch thickness and 2 lb weight from its aluminum frame. Another aspect of thin-and-light designs are the typically low-power processors, though the “U” series in Intel’s 7th-generation processor lineup still offer good performance numbers for portable machines. Looking at the spec sheet it is clear that ASUS paid attention to performance with this ZenBook, and we will see later on if a good balance has been struck between performance and battery life.

Our review unit was equipped with a Core i7-7500U processor, a 2-core/4-thread part with a 15W TDP and speeds ranging from 2.70 - 3.50 GHz, along with the above-mentioned 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. With an MSRP of $1599 for this configuration it faces some stiff competition from the likes of the Dell XPS line and recent Lenovo ThinkPad and Apple MacBook offerings, though it can of course be found for less than its MSRP (and this configuration currently sells on Amazon for about $1499). The ZenBook 3 certainly offers style if you are into blade-like aluminum designs, and, while not a touchscreen, nothing short of Gorilla Glass 4 was employed to protect the LCD display.

“ZenBook 3’s design took some serious engineering prowess and craftsmanship to realize. The ultra-thin 11.9mm profile meant we had to invent the world’s most compact laptop hinge — just 3mm high — to preserve its sleek lines. To fit in the full-size keyboard, we had to create a surround that’s just 2.1mm wide at the edges, and we designed the powerful four-speaker audio system in partnership with audiophile specialists Harman Kardon. ZenBook is renowned for its unique, stunning looks, and you’ll instantly recognize the iconic Zen-inspired spun-metal finish on ZenBook 3’s all-metal unibody enclosure — a finish that takes 40 painstaking steps to create. But we’ve added a beautiful twist, using a special 2-phase anodizing process to create stunning golden edge highlights. To complete this sophisticated new theme, we’ve added a unique gold ASUS logo and given the keyboard a matching gold backlight.”

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Continue reading our review of the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA laptop!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction and Specifications

The Galaxy S8 Plus is Samsung's first ‘big’ phone since the Note7 fiasco, and just looking at it the design and engineering process seems to have paid off. Simply put, the GS8/GS8+ might just be the most striking handheld devices ever made. The U.S. version sports the newest and fastest Qualcomm platform with the Snapdragon 835, and the international version of the handset uses Samsung’s Exynos 8895 Octa SoC. We have the former on hand, and it was this MSM8998-powered version of the 6.2-inch GS8+ that I spent some quality time with over the past two weeks.

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There is more to a phone than its looks, and even in that department the Galaxy S8+ raises questions about durability with that large, curved glass screen. With the front and back panels wrapping around as they do the phone has a very slim, elegant look that feels fantastic in hand. And while one drop could easily ruin your day with any smartphone, this design is particularly unforgiving - and screen replacement costs with these new S8 phones are particularly high due to the difficulty in repairing the screen, and need to replace the AMOLED display along with the laminated glass.

Forgetting the fragility for a moment and just embracing the case-free lifestyle I was so tempted to adopt, lest I change the best in-hand feel I've had from a handset (and I didn't want to hide its knockout design, either), I got down to actually objectively assessing the phone's performance. This is the first production phone we have had on hand with the new Snapdragon 835 platform, and we will be able to draw some definitive performance conclusions compared to SoCs in other shipping phones.

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Samsung Galaxy S8+ Specifications (US Version)
Display 6.2-inch 1440x2960 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (MSM8998)
CPU Cores 4x 2.45 GHz Kryo
4x 1.90 GHz Kryo
GPU Cores Adreno 540
RAM 4 / 6 GB LPDDR4 (6 GB with 128 GB storage option)
Storage 64 / 128 GB
Network Snapdragon X16 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0; A2DP, aptX
USB 3.1 (Type-C)
NFC
Battery 3500 mAh Li-Ion
Dimensions 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173 g
OS Android 7.0

Continue reading our review of the Samsung Galaxy S8+ smartphone!

Subject: Systems
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and First Impressions

The LIVA family of mini PCs has been refreshed regularly since its introduction in 2014, and the LIVA Z represents a change to sleek industrial design as well as the expected updates to the internal hardware.

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The LIVA Z we have for review today is powered by an Intel Apollo Lake SoC, and the product family includes SKUs with both Celeron and Pentium processors. Our review unit is the entry-level model with a Celeron N3350 processor, 4GB memory, and 32GB storage. Memory and storage support are improved compared to past LIVAs, as this is really more of a mini-PC kit like an Intel NUC, as the LIVA Z includes an M.2 slot (SATA 6.0 Gbps) for storage expansion, and a pair of SODIMM slots support up to 8 GB of DDR3L memory (a single 4GB SODIMM is installed by default).

The LIVA Z is a very small device, just a bit bigger than your typical set-top streaming box, and like all LIVAs it is fanless; making it totally silent in operation. This is important for many people in applications such as media consumption in a living room, and like previous LIVA models the Z includes a VESA mount for installation on the back of a TV or monitor. So how does it perform? We will find out!

Continue reading our review of the ECS LIVA Z fanless mini PC!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech

Is Mechanical Mandatory?

The Logitech G213 Prodigy gaming keyboard offers the company's unique Mech-Dome keys and customizable RGB lighting effects, and it faces some stiff competition in a market overflowing with gaming keyboards for every budget (including mechanical options). But it really comes down to performance, feel, and usability; and I was interested in giving these new Mech-Dome keys a try.

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“The G213 Prodigy gaming keyboard features Logitech Mech-Dome keys that are specially tuned to deliver a superior tactile response and performance profile similar to a mechanical keyboard. Mech-Dome keys are full height, deliver a full 4mm travel distance, 50g actuation force, and a quiet sound operation.

The G213 Prodigy gaming keyboard was designed for gaming, featuring ultra-quick, responsive feedback that is up to 4x faster than the 8ms report rate of standard keyboards and an anti-ghosting matrix that keeps you in control when you press multiple gaming keys simultaneously.”

I will say that at $69.99 the G213 plays in a somewhat odd space relative to the current gaming keyboard market; though it would be well positioned in a retail setting, where at a local Best Buy it would be a compelling option vs. a $100+ mechanical option. But savvy internet shoppers see the growing number of <$70 mechanical keyboards available and might question the need for a ‘quasi-mechanical’ option like this. I don’t review products from a marketing perspective, however, and I simply set out to determine if the G213 is a well-executed product on the hardware front.

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Continue reading our review of the Logitech G213 gaming keyboard!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Huawei

Introduction and Specifications

The Mate 9 is the current version of Huawei’s signature 6-inch smartphone, building on last year’s iteration with the company’s new Kirin 960 SoC (featuring ARM's next-generation Bifrost GPU architecture), improved industrial design, and exclusive Leica-branded dual camera system.

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In the ultra-competitive smartphone world there is little room at the top, and most companies are simply looking for a share of the market. Apple and Samsung have occupied the top two spots for some time, with HTC, LG, Motorola, and others, far behind. But the new #3 emerged not from the usual suspects, but from a name many of us in the USA had not heard of until recently; and it is the manufacturer of the Mate 9. And comparing this new handset to the preceding Mate 8 (which we looked at this past August), it is a significant improvement in most respects.

With this phone Huawei has really come into their own with their signature phone design, and 2016 was a very good product year with the company’s smartphone offerings. The P9 handset launched early in 2016, offering not only solid specs and impressive industrial design, but a unique camera that was far more than a gimmick. Huawei’s partnership with Leica has resulted in a dual-camera system that operates differently than systems found on phones such as the iPhone 7 Plus, and the results are very impressive. The Mate 9 is an extension of that P9 design, adapted for their larger Mate smartphone series.

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Continue reading our review of the Huawei Mate 9!