Move Over T150...

The Thrustmaster TMX was released this past summer to address the Xbox One ecosystem with an affordable, entry level force-feedback wheel.  This is essentially the Xbox version of the previously reviewed Thrustmaster T150 for the PS3/PS4.  There are many things that these two wheels have in common, but there are a few significant differences as well.  The TMX is also PC compatible, which is what I tested it upon.

tm_tmx01.jpg

A no-nonsense box design that lets the buyer know exactly what systems this product is for.

The Basics

The TMX is priced at an MSRP of $199.  Along with the T150 this is truly an entry level FFB wheel with all of the features that racers desire.  The wheel itself is 11” wide and the base is compact, with a solid feel.  Unlike the T150, the TMX is entirely decked out in multiple shades of black.  The majority of the unit is a dark, slick black while the rubber grips have a matte finish.  The buttons on the wheel are colored appropriately according to the Xbox controller standards (yellow, blue, green, and red).  The other buttons are black with a couple of them having some white stenciling on them.

The motor in this part is not nearly as powerful as what we find in the TX and T300rs base units.  Those are full pulley based parts with relatively strong motors while the TMX is a combination gear and pulley system.  This provides a less expensive setup than the full pulley systems of the higher priced parts, but it still is able to retain pretty strong FFB.  Some of the more subtle effects may be lost due to the setup, but it is far and away a better solution than units that feature bungee cords and basic rumble functionality.

tm_tmx02.jpg

The back shows a basic diagram of the mixed pulley and geared subsystem for force-feedback.

The wheel features a 12 bit optical pickup sensor for motion on the wheel.  This translates into 4096 values through 360 degrees of rotation.  This is well below the 16 bit units of the TX and T300rs bases, but in my racing I did not find it to be holding me back.  Yes, the more expensive units are more accurate and utilize the Hall Effect rather than an optical pickup, but the TMX provides more than enough precision for the vast majority of titles out there.  The pedals look to feature the same 10 bit resolution that most other Thrustmaster pedals offer, or about 1024 values for several inches of travel.

Click to read the entire wheel review!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: AUKEY

Introduction and First Impressions

Aukey, a prominent seller of mobile accessories on Amazon, has an interesting product for PC enthusiasts: an RGB mechanical gaming keyboard for $59.99. The price is definitely right, but is it any good? We’ll take a look!

DSC_0140.jpg

“The AUKEY KM-G3 mechanical keyboard takes the gaming experience to a new level. Tactile, responsive mechanical keys put you in control for an outstanding typing or gaming experience. The KM-G3 offers preloaded multi-color RGB backlit lighting effects and patterns. Ideal for FPS, CF, COD, LOL and Racing games - Just use the Function key to easily switch between gaming presets.”

The KM-G3 keyboard is a standard 104-key design, using blue switches (presumably a generic switch as no brand is listed), and there is RGB lighting which can be cycled between various colors and patterns, or switched off if desired. Aukey is also offering a 2-year warranty on the keyboard, which should help allay any fear about a purchase.

DSC_0144.jpg

Continue reading our review of the AUKEY KM-G3 RGB mechanical gaming keyboard!

Author:
Manufacturer: XFX

Introduction and Features

2-logo_new3.png

Introduction

Today we are taking a detailed look at the XFX TS Series 750W Gold Full Wired power supply. The TS Series Gold Full Wired sits square in the middle of XFX’s power supply lineup and comes in three different sizes: 550W, 650W, and 750W. As you might guess from the name, all three power supplies are certified to meet the 80 Plus Gold efficiency requirements and come with fixed cables.

The TS Series Gold Full Wired power supplies are based on Seasonic’s very successful S12G platform, which delivers great performance using high quality components without a lot of frills. All the TS Series power supplies feature a single +12V rail (XFX EasyRail Plus Technology), Japanese made 105°C capacitors, quiet 120mm ball bearing fan, and they come backed by XFX’s 5-year warranty. The power supplies feature a compact chassis that measures only 140mm (5.5”) deep and carry over a few of XFX’s premium brand designs like their iconic fan grill and bold labelling.

3-TS750.jpg

The TS Series Gold Full Wired power supplies are targeted towards gamers and PC enthusiasts who want solid performance at a user friendly price. To accomplish this XFX has forgone a few features like modular cables, Platinum level efficiency and fanless operation for price conscious consumers. The MSRP for the TS Series Gold 750W power supply is $89.99 USD.

4a-TS750-wired.jpg

XFX TS Series Gold Full Wired Power Supply Key Features:

•    550W, 650W or 750W continuous DC output
•    80 Plus Gold certification for high efficiency
•    Ultra-quiet 120mm fan design
•    Tight voltage regulation
•    Haswell ready
•    Japanese made 105°C capacitors
•    EasyRail Plus Technology (single +12V rail)
•    Multiple PCI-E 6+2 pin connectors
•    AMD CrossFire and NVIDIA SLI Ready
•    Protections: OPP,OVP,UVP,SCP,OCP and OTP
•    Compact chassis measuring only 140mm (5.5 in) deep
•    5-Year Manufacturer’s warranty
•    MSRP for the TS750 is $89.99 USD

4b-Box.jpg

Here is what XFX has to say about the TS Series Gold Full Wired power supply line:

Professional gaming products for hardcore gamers. The XFX TS Series 750W Full Wired PSU is an 80 Plus Gold certified PSU that combines great performance, innovative design, and the high quality required by hardcore gamers and DIY enthusiasts. Advanced EasyRail technology allows you to run power-hungry components, such as a CPU and GPU, without worrying about individual rail limits. Enjoy first-class reliability and stability with 105°C Japanese capacitors.

Please continue reading our review of the XFX TS750 power supply!

Introduction and Case Exterior

The Define Mini C is the micro-ATX variant in Fractal Design's excellent Define series, and this compact chassis is nearly as small as some of the mini-ITX cases we've looked at in recent months. The advantages of micro-ATX for a small form-factor build are undeniable, including added expansion slots (and multi-GPU support), and more robust power delivery for greater CPU flexibility including AMD socket AM3/AM3+ support.

DSC_0599-2.jpg

I freely admit to being a small form-factor enthusiast myself, and as much as I like mini-ITX, there are times when micro-ATX just makes sense. I mentioned AMD compatibility above, but even if you're building with Intel there are reasons to consider mATX. One of these is Intel's enthusiast platform, as X99 requires at least a micro-ATX board for quad-channel memory and greater PCIe flexibility. (Naturally, at least one mITX X99 board is available, but this is limited to a pair of memory slots and - of course - has just one PCIe slot.)

DSC_0602.jpg

As soon as I unpacked the Define Mini C, I knew it would make a perfect home for the EVGA X99 Micro2 motherboard I had on hand. This micro-ATX board makes a compelling argument for the smaller form-factor, as very little is lost vs. full ATX. The Mini C (which sounds like the name of a mini-ITX product, but Fractal's mITX variant is the called Nano S - which I reviewed a few months back) should make a great home for a powerful compact system. Let's get started!

Continue reading our review of the Fractal Design Define Mini C case!!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

A Holiday Project

A couple of years ago, I performed an experiment around the GeForce GTX 750 Ti graphics card to see if we could upgrade basic OEM, off-the-shelf computers to become competent gaming PCs. The key to this potential upgrade was that the GTX 750 Ti offered a great amount of GPU horsepower (at the time) without the need for an external power connector. Lower power requirements on the GPU meant that even the most basic of OEM power supplies should be able to do the job.

That story was a success, both in terms of the result in gaming performance and the positive feedback it received. Today, I am attempting to do that same thing but with a new class of GPU and a new class of PC games.

The goal for today’s experiment remains pretty much the same: can a low-cost, low-power GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics card that also does not require any external power connector offer enough gaming horsepower to upgrade current shipping OEM PCs to "gaming PC" status?

Our target PCs for today come from Dell and ASUS. I went into my local Best Buy just before the Thanksgiving holiday and looked for two machines that varied in price and relative performance.

01.jpg

  Dell Inspiron 3650 ASUS M32CD-B09
Processor Intel Core i3-6100 Intel Core i7-6700
Motherboard Custom Custom
Memory 8GB DDR4 12GB DDR4
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 530 Intel HD Graphics 530
Storage 1TB HDD 1TB Hybrid HDD
Case Custom Custom
Power Supply 240 watt 350 watt
OS Windows 10 64-bit Windows 10 64-bit
Total Price $429 (Best Buy) $749 (Best Buy)

The specifications of these two machines are relatively modern for OEM computers. The Dell Inspiron 3650 uses a modest dual-core Core i3-6100 processor with a fixed clock speed of 3.7 GHz. It has a 1TB standard hard drive and a 240 watt power supply. The ASUS M32CD-B09 PC has a quad-core HyperThreaded processor with a 4.0 GHz maximum Turbo clock, a 1TB hybrid hard drive and a 350 watt power supply. Both of the CPUs share the same Intel brand of integrated graphics, the HD Graphics 520. You’ll see in our testing that not only is this integrated GPU unqualified for modern PC gaming, but it also performs quite differently based on the CPU it is paired with.

Continue reading our look at upgrading an OEM machine with the GTX 1050 Ti!!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction

In August at the company’s annual developer forum, Intel officially took the lid off its 7th generation of Core processor series, codenamed Kaby Lake. The build up to this release has been an interesting one as we saw the retirement of the “tick tock” cadence of processor releases and instead are moving into a market where Intel can spend more development time on a single architecture design to refine and tweak it as the engineers see fit. With that knowledge in tow, I believed, as I think many still do today, that Kaby Lake would be something along the lines of a simple rebrand of current shipping product. After all, since we know of no major architectural changes from Skylake other than improvements in the video and media side of the GPU, what is left for us to look forward to?

As it turns out, the advantages of the 7th Generation Core processor family and Kaby Lake are more substantial than I expected. I was able to get a hold of two different notebooks from the HP Spectre lineup, as near to identical as I could manage, with the primary difference being the move from the 6th Generation Skylake design to the 7th Generation Kaby Lake. After running both machines through a gamut of tests ranging from productivity to content creation and of course battery life, I can say with authority that Intel’s 7th Gen product deserves more accolades than it is getting.

Architectural Refresher

Before we get into the systems and to our results, I think it’s worth taking some time to quickly go over some of what we know about Kaby Lake from the processor perspective. Most of this content was published back in August just after the Intel Developer Forum, so if you are sure you are caught up, you can jump right along to a pictorial look at the two notebooks being tested today.

At its core, the microarchitecture of Kaby Lake is identical to that of Skylake. Instructions per clock (IPC) remain the same with the exception of dedicated hardware changes in the media engine, so you should not expect any performance differences with Kaby Lake except with improved clock speeds.

Also worth noting is that Intel is still building Kaby Lake on 14nm process technology, the same used on Skylake. The term “same” will be debated as well as Intel claims that improvements made in the process technology over the last 24 months have allowed them to expand clock speeds and improve on efficiency.

core.jpg

Dubbing this new revision of the process as “14nm+”, Intel tells me that they have improved the fin profile for the 3D transistors as well as channel strain while more tightly integrating the design process with manufacturing. The result is a 12% increase in process performance; that is a sizeable gain in a fairly tight time frame even for Intel.

That process improvement directly results in higher clock speeds for Kaby Lake when compared to Skylake when running at the same target TDPs. In general, we are looking at 300-400 MHz higher peak clock speeds in Turbo Boost situations when compared to similar TDP products in the 6th generation. Sustained clocks will very likely remain voltage / thermally limited but the ability spike up to higher clocks for even short bursts can improve performance and responsiveness of Kaby Lake when compared to Skylake.

Along with higher fixed clock speeds for Kaby Lake processors, tweaks to Speed Shift will allow these processors to get to peak clock speeds more quickly than previous designs. I extensively tested Speed Shift when the feature was first enabled in Windows 10 and found that the improvement in user experience was striking. Though the move from Skylake to Kaby Lake won’t be as big of a change, Intel was able to improve the behavior.

The graphics architecture and EU (execution unit) layout remains the same from Skylake, but Intel was able to integrate a new video decode unit to improve power efficiency. That new engine can work in parallel with the EUs to improve performance throughput as well, but obviously at the expensive of some power efficiency.

peca-8.jpg

Specific additions to the codec lineup include decode support for 10-bit HEVC and 8/10-bit VP9 as well as encode support for 10-bit HEVC and 9-bit VP9. The video engine adds HDR support with tone mapping though it does require EU utilization. Wide Color Gamut (Rec. 2020) is prepped and ready to go according to Intel for when that standard starts rolling out to displays.

Performance levels for these new HEVC encode/decode blocks is set to allow for 4K 120mbps real-time on both the Y-series (4.5 watt) and U-series (15 watt) processors.

It’s obvious that the changes to Kaby Lake from Skylake are subtle and even I found myself overlooking the benefits that it might offer. While the capabilities it has will be tested on the desktop side at a later date in 2017, for thin and light notebooks, convertibles and even some tablets, the 7th Generation Core processors do in fact take advantage of the process improvements and higher clock speeds to offer an improved user experience.

Continue reading our look at Kaby Lake mobile performance!

Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Exterior

Corsair has just dropped a trio of new cases into the market, and I happen to have all of them in my secret enclosure testing bunker. While reviews for the other two are in the pipeline, the first of these to be completed is this impressive new Crystal Series 570X. Not only does this case have tempered glass galore (and an ultra-premium look and feel), but it also features customizable RGB lighting effects.

DSC_0589-2.jpg

Glass has clearly (pun intended) been trending in the case world of late, and there are more tempered glass options at affordable price points than ever. There is still room for a premium option or two, and Corsair joins the ranks of In Win for a high-style enclosure with this Crystal 570X. At first glance the case looks like it's mostly tempered glass, and for the most part the exterior is just that. Glass panels comprise front and back sides, as well as the front and top of the case. In fact, only the back and bottom panels of the Crystal 570X are steel.

DSC_0563.jpg

Here are some key points for the Crystal 570X from Corsair:

  • Four tempered glass panels on the sides of the case: Possibly the most beautiful case CORSAIR has ever made. With tempered glass enclosing the entire chassis, every component of your build is on display.
  • Customizable lighting: Light up your build with brilliant LED effects. Three included SP120 RGB LED fans and included LED controller keeps your components running cool. Each fan is equipped with vivid, configurable LED lights, enabling you to personalize your build.
  • Room for virtually anything: Mounting points for 6 case fans and fully compatible with 360mm, 280mm, and 120mm radiators. Removable fan trays in the front and top of the chassis allows for additional space or mounting cooling outside of the chassis.
  • Cable management made simple: Cable routing channels with included velcro cable straps for clean cable management.
  • Easy to clean: Easily access dust filters on front, top, and bottom mean you’ll never spend more than a minute getting dust out of your system.

DSC_0570.jpg

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Crystal Series 570X case!!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

02-board_0.jpg

Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The Z170X-Ultra Gaming motherboard is among the latest offerings from GIGABYTE in their G1 Gaming product line, introducing Thunderbolt 3, USB 3.1, and LED enhancements to thier Z170 boards. The board features a base black aesthetic with integrated red LEDs spread throughout its surface for a sleek look. The board's integrated Intel Z170 chipset gives the board support for the latest Intel LGA1151 Skylake processor line as well as Dual Channel DDR4 memory. The Z170X-Ultra Gaming has a base sellng price of $160, a more than reasonable price for the integrated features and the board's performance.

03-board-profile_0.jpg

Courtesy of GIGABYTE

04-board-features.jpg

Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE integrated the following features into the Z170X-Ultra Gaming mortherboard: two SATA 3 ports; two SATA-Express ports; one U.2 32Gbps port; one M.2 PCIe x4 capable port; an Intel I219-V Gigabit NIC; 2x2 802.11ac WiFI adapter; three PCI-Express x16 slots; two PCI-Express x1 slots; Realtek 8-Channel audio subsystem; integrated mini-DisplayPort and HDMI video ports; and USB 3.0 and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.

Continue reading our preview of the GIGABYTE Z170X-Ultra Gaming motherboard!

Author:

Introduction and Features

Introduction

2-Two-boxes.jpg

SilverStone has been busy this year expanding their power supply lineup. With a continued focus on smaller physical size and support for enthusiasts in the small form factor arena, SilverStone now offers seven power supplies in the SFX Series, ranging in output capacity from 300W to 700W. Earlier this year we looked at the SX700-LPT, which sits at high end of the SFX Series. In this review we are going to look at the two entry level models, the new ST30SF (V2.0) and the ST45SF (V3.0).

Both of the SilverStone SFX power supplies were designed for mainstream use in small form factor cases but they can also be used in place of a standard ATX power supply (in small enclosures) with the included adapter bracket. As entry level units they forgo some features like modular cables, Platinum or Gold efficiency certification, and fan-less operation. However, in addition to their compact size, the ST30SF and ST45SF incorporate a quiet 92mm fan (instead of the 80mm fans used in previous models), fixed cables, and come with 80 Plus Bronze efficiency certification.

3-Two-PSUs.jpg

SilverStone ST30SF & ST45SF PSU Key Features:

•    Small Form Factor (SFX) design (63x125x100mm HxWxD)
•    300W or 450W continuous power output rated for 24/7 operation
•    Very quiet with 92mm cooling fan
•    80 Plus Bronze certified for high efficiency
•    Powerful single +12V rail operation
•    Fixed cables
•    Active power factor correction
•    MSRP: ST30SF - $$49.99 USD
•    MSRP: ST45SF - $69.99 USD
•    3-Year warranty

Please continue reading our review of the SilverStone SFX PSUs!!!

Manufacturer: NZXT

Introduction and First Impressions

The Source S340 from NZXT has been one of my favorite enclosures since I reviewed it early in 2015, offering a fantastic price/performance proposition with a street price between $69 and $79. Fortunately, this outstanding compact ATX design isn't going anywhere, and since my original review NZXT has introduced a premium Designed by Razer version, and this new S340 Elite was released just last month.

DSC_0366.jpg

What makes the Elite so, well, elite? There are some key changes with this new version, including a tempered glass side panel, VR support from an external HDMI port and an included puck for storing a VR headset and cables, as well as new plastic cable management clamps behind the motherboard tray, an extra SSD mount up front, and a pair of USB 2.0 ports along with the previous USB 3.0 ports up top. While the VR support won't be required for everyone, the tempered glass panel alone makes this an attractive option at its $99.99 retail price, which is a very modest $20 premium over the standard version's $79.99 MSRP.

This review will be a little less in-depth compared to the usual review, as the S340 chassis is unchanged internally from our full review last April. Still, there is enough new here to take a fresh look at the S340 Elite, and it will be good to test it again with the current testbench components and see how it has held up.

DSC_0297.jpg

The tempered glass side panel is the star of the 340 Elite

Continue reading our review of the NZXT Source S340 Elite case!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Since Samsung’s announcement of the 960 Series SSDs, I have been patiently waiting not for the 960 PRO (reviewed a few weeks back), but for the 960 EVO. It is the EVO, in my opinion, that is the big release here. Sure, it doesn’t have the quad Hexadecimal Die Packages, Package-on-Package DRAM and ultimate higher capacity of the PRO, but what it *does* potentially have is class leading performance / price in the M.2 form factor. Just as we all wanted lower cost SSDs in the 2.5” SATA form factor, M.2 is seeing greater adoption across laptops and desktop motherboards, and it’s high time we started seeing M.2 SSDs come down in price.

I know, don’t tell me, the Intel 600p carries a SATA-level cost/GB in an M.2 form factor. Sure that’s great, and while I do recommend that SSD for those on a budget, its caching scheme comes with some particularly nasty inconsistencies in sustained writes that may scare off some power users. Samsung 840/850 EVO SSDs have historically handled the transitions between SLC cache and TLC bulk writes far better than any competing units, and I’ve eagerly anticipated the chance to see how well their implementation carries over to an NVMe SSD. Fortunately for us, that day is today:

161111-133906.jpg

Specifications:

specs.png

An important point to note in the performance specs - the lowest capacity model is the only one to see its performance significantly taper in stated specifications. That is because even with its 48-layer VNAND operating in SLC mode, there are only two packages on all 960 EVOs and the 250GB capacity comes equipped with the fewest dies to spread the work across. Less parallelism leads to lower ultimate performance. Still, it is impressive to see only 250GB of flash reaching near saturation of PCIe 3.0 x4 in reads.

I've appended the 'sustained' (TLC) performance specs at the bottom of the above chart. These 'after TurboWrite' figures are the expected performance after the SLC cache has been depleted. This is nearly impossible in actual usage scenarios, as it is extremely difficult for any typical (or even power user) desktop workloads to write fast and long enough to deplete such a cache, especially considering how much larger these caches are compared to prior models.

Packaging:

161111-134300.jpg

Samsung has carried forward their simple packaging introduced with the 960 PRO. The felt pad on the bottom of the installation guide is both functional and elegant, keeping the 960 Pro safely in place during shipment.

Read on for the full review of the 250GB and 1TB Samsung 960 EVO!

Author:
Manufacturer: MSI

We have a lot of gaming notebooks

Back in April I did a video with MSI that looked at all of the gaming notebook lines it built around the GTX 900-series of GPUs. Today we have stepped it up a notch, and again are giving you an overview of MSI's gaming notebook lines that now feature the ultra-powerful GTX 10-series using NVIDIA's Pascal architecture. That includes the GTX 1060, GTX 1070 and GTX 1080.

What differentiates the various series of notebooks from MSI? The GE series is for entry level notebook gaming, the GS series offers slim options while the GT series is the ultimate PC gaming mobile platforms. 

  GE series GS series GT62/72 series GT 73/83 series
MSRP $1549-1749 $1499-2099 $1499-2599 $2199-4999
Screen 15.6" and 17.3"
1080p
14", 15.6" and 17.3"
1080p and 4K
15.6" and 17.3"
1080p, G-Sync
17.3" and 18"
1080p, 4K
G-Sync (varies)
CPU Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6820HK
Core i7-6920HQ
GPU GTX 1060 6GB GTX 1060 6GB GTX 1060 6GB
GTX 1070 8GB
GTX 1070 8GB (SLI option)
GTX 1080 8GB (SLI option)
RAM 12-16GB 16-32GB 12-32GB 16-64GB
Storage 128-512GB M.2 SATA
1TB HDD
128-512GB M.2 SATA
1TB HDD
128-512GB PCIe and SATA
1TB HDD
Up to 1TB SSD (SATA, NVMe)
1TB HDD
Optical DVD Super-multi None Yes (GT72 only) Blu-ray burner (GT83 only)
Features Killer E2400 LAN
USB 3.1 Type-C
Steel Series RGB Keyboard
Killer E2400 LAN
Killer 1535 WiFi
Thunderbolt 3
Killer E2400 LAN
Killer 1535 WiFi
USB 3.1 Type-C
3x USB 3.0 (GT62)
3x USB 3.0 (GT72)
Killer E2400 LAN
Killer 1535 WiFi
Thunderbolt 3
5x USB 3.0
Steel Series RGB (GT73)
Mechanical Keyboard (GT83)
Weight 5.29-5.35 lbs 3.75-5.35 lbs 6.48-8.33 lbs 8.59-11.59 lbs

Our video below will break down the differences and help point you toward the right notebook for you based on the three key pillars of performance, price and form factor.

Thanks goes out to CUK, Computer Upgrade King, for supplying the 9 different MSI notebooks for our testing and evaluation!

Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and First Impressions

Corsair’s Carbide Series Air 740 is a high-airflow cube-like ATX case, and it has a different look and some different options compared to the previous Air 540. Both Air cases are dual-chamber designs, with tons of room behind the motherboard tray for storage and hiding cables (and watercooling components). The cube style might not be to everyone’s liking, but if you do like the aesthetics there is a lot of case to cover here. Let’s get started!

DSC_0335.jpg

The original Carbide Air enclosure has been around for a few years, and Ryan reviewed Air 540 back in 2013. The new Air 740 is more a refinement than a new enclosure, and internally the two cases are very similar. Corsair has dropped the 5.25-inch external drive bays with the 740, and the door has a very nice hinged/latching design now. Style is a little more aggressive, but the fundamentals are the same: a cube design offering two large chambers, and generous venting to promote high airflow.

DSC_0341.jpg

The Air 740 has a hinged, latching door

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Carbide Air 740 case!!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech

Introduction and Specifications

The Prodigy G231 is the budget-minded gaming headset in the Prodigy line, and with a standard analog connection Logitech has emphasized stereo sound quality in lieu of the simulated surround effects found on their pricier G633/G933 models. I tested these headphones with a variety of material to find out how well the G231 works at providing entertaining audio, and how comfortable they are in the process.

DSC_0068.jpg

Plain old 2-channel stereo can still offer a fantastic listening experience for music, gaming, and movies - when it’s done right. Things like the perceived “width” of the stereo sound, clarity of audio across the frequency spectrum, and dynamic shifts in volume can go far in providing an immersive experience - even without surround effects. Logitech’s existing gaming headsets (G633, G933) performed very well as stereo cans when connected with a 3.5 mm cable, and if this G231 comes close it presents a good value proposition.

Still, 7.1 channel sound, even if it is being simulated with single-driver designs like Logitech’s, obviously has a lot of fans, and for good reason. Willingness to accept 2-channel headphones for gaming will be up to the individual, and just as there are enthusiasts who would no sooner accept simulated surround as use a sound bar in their home theater, there are listeners who believe that dedicated drivers are essential to proper directional surround in a gaming headset. Multi-driver presents its own issues for a cohesive experience from a variety of content, and stereo music in particular just sounds better from a pair of high quality drivers.

Continue reading our review of the Logitech Prodigy G231 gaming headset!!

Author:
Manufacturer: EVGA

Introduction and Features

Introduction

2-G2L-Banner.jpg

EVGA recently introduced two power supplies in the new Supernova G2L Series, the 750W G2L and the 850W G2L. We will be taking a detailed look at the 750 G2L in this review. The Supernova G2L Series is based on EVGA’s popular G2 series but now adds white LED lighting into the modular connectors on the front side of the power supply.

3-LED-connectors.jpg

The Supernova G2L series power supplies are 80 Plus Gold certified for high efficiency and feature all modular cables, high-quality Japanese brand capacitors, a quiet 135mm cooling fan, and ECO Thermal control which enables fan-less operation at low to mid power. All G2L series power supplies are NVIDIA SLI and AMD Crossfire Ready and are backed by a 10-year EVGA warranty!

4a-Back-diagonal.jpg

EVGA SuperNOVA 750W G2L PSU Key Features:

•    10-Year warranty with unparalleled EVGA Customer Support
•    80 PLUS Gold certified, with up to 90%/92% efficiency (115VAC/240VAC)
•    Highest quality Japanese brand capacitors ensure long-term reliability
•    Fully modular cables to reduce clutter and improve airflow
•    Quiet 135mm ball bearing fan for exceptional reliability and quiet operation
•    ECO Thermal Control allows silent, fan-less operation at low power
•    NVIDIA SLI & AMD Crossfire Ready
•    Active Power Factor correction (0.99) with Universal AC input
•    White LEDs built into modular connectors

Please continue reading our review of the EVGA 750W G2L PSU!!!

Author:
Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: Acer

Introduction and Specifications

Acer's Predator Z850 takes the gaming monitor concept to the next level, projecting screen sizes up to 120" from less than two feet from a wall. It offers an ultra-wide 24:9 aspect ratio (at 1920x720), very high 3000 lumen brightness for gaming with ambient light (something projectors didn't used to be able to cope with), and a laser diode illumination system that lasts up to 30,000 hours. It's big, it's red, and you'd better believe it's expensive!

DSC_1004.jpg

The first thing you need to know about the Predator Z850 is that it's an ultra short-thow projector. This means that unlike standard projectors that need the length of the room, or short-throw projectors that still need a few feet, the Predator Z850 can project a huge image from just inches from a wall. This is a relatively new thing for consumer projectors (unless you count the old rear projection TVs, which used the technology), and there are only a few models with ultra short throw (UST) ranging from the mainstram LG PF1000U, to the $50,000 4K Sony LSPX-W1S.

It's remarkable how UST changes how we think about projection, as the same depth taken up by the average TV table could provide an image larger than nearly any LCD television available, while being easily portable in the process. The Predator Z850 is all about flexibility, combining the inherent UST ability to project massive 120-inch images from less than two feet away, to built-in correction for various colors of wall paint (this could be used with a projection screen, too, of course). The only problem I can forsee as we continue is the price tag, which is $4999.

So how can we justify the price of the Z850? No matter how you slice it $5,000 is a lot of money, and the same investment could build an amazing multi-monitor setup as an alternative. But there really is something about turning an entire wall of your house into a display, and I had a lot of fun playing around with this projector (my wife was sorry it had to go back, as she enjoyed her 100-inch football games on the wall).

Continue reading our review of the Acer Predator Z850 UltraWide Gaming Projector!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Just under a year ago we published our review of the Samsung 950 PRO, their first foray into NVMe SSD territory. Today we have a 960 PRO, which strives to be more revolutionary than evolutionary. There are some neat new features like 16-die packages and a Package-on-Package controller/DRAM design, all cooled by a copper heat spreading label! This new model promises to achieve some very impressive results, so without further delay, let's get to it!

161018-080624.jpg

Specifications:

specs-1.png

specs-2.png

Specs have not changed since the announcement. Highlights include

  • A new 5-core Polaris controller (with one die solely dedicated to coordinating IO's to/from the host)
  • 4-Landing Design - It's tough fitting four flash packages onto an M.2 2280 SSD, but Samsung has done it, thanks to the below feature.
  • Package-on-Package - The controller and DRAM are stacked within the same package, saving space.
  • Hexadecimal Die Packages - For the 960 Pro to reach 2TB of capacity, 16 48-layer MLC V-NAND packages must be present within each package. That's a lot of dies per package!

Packaging:

161018-080414.jpg

161018-080517.jpg

Nice touch with the felt pad on the bottom of the installation guide. This pad keeps the 960 Pro safely in place during shipment.

Read on for the full review of the 2TB Samsung 960 PRO!

Stepping Up the Simulation Game

I don’t exactly remember when I first heard about Fanatec, but it likely was sometime after the release of DiRT 2.  I was somewhat into racing games before that, but that particular title sold me on the genre and I have not looked back since.  Before then I used a Microsoft Sidewinder FFB stick for my racing, but it was D2 that convinced me to purchase a wheel for the full fledged experience.  The initial impression of Fanatec was of course “high priced, but really nice gear”.  These were products that I did not think I would ever see in any personal capacity as they were out of my price range and my driving passion was just not amped up enough to rationalize it.

fanatec_01.jpg

My dog is quite suspicious of the amount of boxes the set came in.

I know I probably talk about it too much, but the introduction of DiRT Rally really supercharged my interest in driving accessories due to the work they did on physics and Force Feedback effects.  My older Thrustmaster Ferrari F430 wheel featured a meager 270 degrees of rotation and clunky FFB that did not translate well with this particular title.  It may have done OK with older, more arcade based racers, but with the latest generation of sims that focus on accuracy in experience it just did not cut it.  Purchasing a Thrustmaster TX based unit was a night and day experience for these latest titles.

The next few months after that I spent time with multiple other wheels and accessories and provided a few reviews based on them.  My level of interest grew exponentially about what the industry offered.  I was able to contact Fanatec and they agreed to put together a bundle of products based on their latest ClubSport V2 products.  This would include the ClubSport V2 Base,  ClubSport Universal Hub for Xbox One, ClubSport Pedals V3, ClubSport Shifter SQ, and the desk mounting hardware for the units.

fanatec_02.jpg

Fanatec is not for the faint of heart when it comes to pricing.  The total package I received is worth 1800 Euro, or about $2016 US.  This is a pretty tremendous amount of money for racing gear, but it is about average for higher end products that exist in this market.  People will question why it costs so much, but after my experience with it I now know why.

Click here to read the rest of the Fanatec Review!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple

Introduction and Specifications

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus are here, and while outwardly they look very similar to last year’s 6s models, there have been some significant upgrades (and a highly controversial change) to the new phones. Is there enough in this iterative update to justify an upgrade? After spending a couple of weeks using one as my primary device, I will attempt to answer this question.

DSC_0746.jpg

While there had been rumors swirling of an all-new design featuring an OLED display, Apple appears to be holding back until next year - which just happens to be the 10th anniversary of the iPhone. Considering this fact, it may just be that the iPhone 7 is something of a stop-gap for 2017. Some of the rumored elements are here, however; with the elimination of the physical home button (it's a solid-state version now) and 3.5 mm headphone jack (the latter causing much consternation). The camera on both phones is completely new as well, with a special dual-lens version exclusive to the 7 Plus.

DSC_0561.jpg

First we'll go over the specs of these phones. As you can see, there are still some areas that are not fully known, such as the exact speed of the low-power cores in the new quad-core SoC, and the specifics about this year's GPU.

  Apple iPhone 7 Apple iPhone 7 Plus
Processor Apple A10 Fusion SoC
2.34 GHz dual-core + 2x low-power cores (? MHz)
Graphics 6-core (unknown GPU)
Memory 2GB 3GB
Screen 4.7-inch IPS, DCI-P3 capable 5.5-inch IPS, DCI-P3 capable
Storage 32GB/128GB/256GB
Cameras Back: 12MP, ƒ/1.8, OIS
Front: 7MP, ƒ/2.2
Back: 12MP, f /1.8, OIS
Dual-camera with 2x telephoto lens
Front: 7MP, ƒ/2.2
Video Video: 4K @ 30 fps, 1080p @ 60/30 fps, 720p @ 30 fps Video: 4K @ 30 fps, 1080p @ 60/30 fps, 720p @ 30 fps
Audio Stereo Speakers
Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi‑Fi with MIMO 
Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
Cellular
(Model A1778/1784)
FDD-LTE (Bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30) 
TD-LTE (Bands 38, 39, 40, 41) 
UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz) 
GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
Connection Lightning
Battery 1960 mAh 2900 mAh
Dimensions 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm
(5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches)
138 g (4.87 oz)
158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
(6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches)
188 g (6.63 oz)
OS iOS 10
Price $649 - $849 $769 - $969

Nearly a Decade of iPhone

iphone_2007.PNG

The iPhone was introduced in 2007 (Image credit: Apple, via archive.org)

It’s hard to believe it’s been nine years since the original iPhone launched. Announced in January of 2007 by Steve Jobs during his keynote speech at CES, it set a standard that the rest of the industry would take some time to meet (remember, the first Android phone was over a year away at this point.) But nine years is an age in technology years, and that first version seems like an antique now. (The original iPhone specs: 3.5-inch display with 320x480 resolution, single-core ARM processor running at 412 MHz, 128 MB of system memory, 4GB/8GB storage.)

Continue reading our review of the Apple iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Drobo

Introduction and Packaging

The Drobo 5D launched a few years ago and continues to be a pricey solution, running close to $600. This was due to added complexity with its mSATA hot data cache and other features that drove the price higher than some potential buyers were happy with. Sure the cache was nice, but many photographers and videographers edit their content on a faster internal SSD and only shift their media to their external storage in bulk sequential file copies. These users don’t necessarily need a caching tier built into their mass storage device - as they just want good straight-line speed to offload their data as fast as possible.

With new management and a renewed purpose with a focus on getting lower cost yet performant products out there, Drobo relaunched their base 4-bay product in a third-generation form. We tested that unit back in December of 2014, and its performance was outstanding for a unit that typically runs in the mid-$200 price range. The price and performance were great, but things were a bit tight when trying to use Dual Disk Redundancy while limited to only four installed drives. A fifth bay would have certainly been handy, as would USB-C connectivity, which brings me to the subject of today’s review:

DSC04690.jpg

I present to you the Drobo 5C. Essentially a 5-bay replacement to the 4-bay 3rd gen Drobo. This will become the new base model Drobo, meaning there will no longer be any 4-bay models in Drobo's product lineup:

Drobo 5C lineup.png

Read on for our review of the new Drobo 5C!