Keeping a Low Profile
Havit is a Chinese company with a unique product for the enthusiast PC segment: the thinnest mechanical keyboard on the market at 22.5 mm. Their slim HV-KB395L keyboard offers real mechanical switching via Kailh low-profile blue switches, and full RGB lighting is thrown in for good measure. For a keyboard that retails for $79.99 this is certainly an interesting mix, but how in the world does low-profile mechanical feel? I will attempt to translate that experience into words (by… typing words).
- 104-key Mechanical Keyboard
- Customizable RGB backlighting
- Kailh PG1350 Low Profile Blue Switch
- 3mm of total travel, 45g of operating force
- N-Key Rollover
- Detachable USB Cable
- Weight: 0.57 kg
- Dimensions: 43.6 x 12.6 x 2.25 cm
First impressions of the keyboard are great, with nice packaging that cradles the keyboard in a carton inside the box. The keyboard itself feels quite premium, with a top panel that is actually metal - unusual for this price-point.
Introduction and Case Exterior
The In Win 301 is a mini tower case with a tempered glass side panel that sells for less than $70. How good is it? Dollar for dollar it could be the best affordable case on the market right now. That's a pretty bold statement, and you'll just have to read the whole review to see if I'm right.
In Win is one of the most unique enclosure makers in the industry, with designs running from elegant simplicity to some of the most elaborate and expensive cases we’ve ever seen. Though well-known for the striking tou 2.0 and the show-stopping (and motorized) H-Frame, in recent years In Win has expanded its offering in the affordable enclosure space, and there is no better example of this than the case we have for you today.
The 301, smaller sibling to the 303, is beautiful in its simplicity, thoughtfully designed for ease of use (as we will see here), and very affordable - even with its tempered-glass side panel, a signature of In Win enclosures. Sound too good to be true? It is limited to micro-ATX and mini-ITX motherboards, but if you’re looking for an option for a small form-factor build with room for full-sized components, this might just end up on your short list. Let’s take a close look at this stylish mini-tower case!
Is this the new budget champion?
True to their name, Corsair’s new HS50 STEREO gaming headsets offer traditional 2-channel sound from a similarly traditional headphone design. These are certainly ready for gaming with a detachable microphone and universal compatibility with both PCs and consoles, and budget friendly with an MSRP of only $49.99. How do they stack up? Let’s find out!
- Driver: 50mm Neodymium
- Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Impedance: 32 Ohms @ 1kHz
- Sensitivity: 111 dB (± 3 dB)
- Mic Type: Unidirectional noise-cancelling
- Mic Impedance: 2.0k Ohms
- Mic Frequency: Response 100Hz – 10kHz
- Mic Sensitivity: -40 dB (± 3 dB)
- Dimensions (LxWxH): 160 x 100 x 205 mm
- Weight: 319g
- Warranty: 2 years
- Available Colors: Carbon, Green, Blue
- Corsair HS50 STEREO Gaming Headset: $49.99, Amazon.com
Nothing about these say “budget” when you look at the packaging and first unbox them, and they have a substantial feel to them like a pair of premium headphones - not at all like an inexpensive gaming headset.
A Trio of Air Coolers
Scythe is a major player in the air cooling space with a dizzying array of coolers for virtually any application from the Japanese company. In addition to some of the most compact coolers in the business Scythe also offers some of the highest performing - and most quiet - tower coolers available. Two of the largest coolers in the lineup are the new Mugen 5 Rev. B, and the Grand Kama Cross 3 - the latter of which is one of their most outlandish designs.
Rounding out this review we also have a compact tower option from Scythe in the Byakko, which is a 130 mm tall cooler that can fit in a greater variety of enclosures than the Mugen 5 or Grand Kama Cross due to its lower profile. So how did each perform on the cooler test bench? We put these Scythe coolers against the Intel Core i7-7700K to see how potent their cooling abilities are when facing a CPU that gets quite toasty under load. Read on to see how this trio responded to the challenge!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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
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).
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:
- 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
- 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)
- 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
- 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.
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.
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.
If you think this LIVA Z Plus looks like the standard LIVA Z, you're right. Externally, the two are identical:
Next we'll take a look inside and then see how it performed with a few benchmarks.
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!
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
- 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
- ZALMAN ZM-K900M Keyboard: $89.99 - Amazon.com
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.
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.”