Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

With the release of Intel Z270 chipset, GIGABYTE unveiled its AORUS line of products. The AORUS branding differentiates the enthusiast and gamer friendly products from other GIGABYTE product lines, similar to how ASUS uses the ROG branding to differentiate their high performance product line. The Z270X-Gaming 8 is one of two "enhanced" boards in the AORUS, factory-customized with a Bitspower designed VRM hybrid water block. The board features the black and white branding common to the AORUS product line, with the rear panel cover and chipset featuring the brand logos. The board is designed around the Intel Z270 chipset with in-built support for the latest Intel LGA1151 Kaby Lake processor line (as well as support for Skylake processors) and Dual Channel DDR4 memory running at a 2400MHz speed. The Z270X-Gaming 8 can be found in retail with an MRSP of $399.99.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE integrated the following features into the Z270X-Gaming 8 motherboard: four SATA III 6Gbps ports; two SATA-Express 10Gbps ports; two U.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 32Gbps ports; two M.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 32Gbps capable ports with Intel Optane support built-in; two RJ-45 GigE ports - an Intel I219-V Gigabit NIC and a Rivet Networks Killer E2500 NIC; a Rivet Networks Killer 802.11ac 2x2 Wireless adapter; four PCI-Express x16 slots; two PCI-Express x1 slots; Creative® Sound Core 3D 8-Channel audio subsystem; integrated DisplayPort and HDMI video ports; Intel Thunderbolt 40Gbps support; G-Chill hybrid VRM water block (designed by Bitspower); and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE partnered with Bitspower in designing the integrated cooling solution for the Z270X-Gaming 8 motherboard. The integrated VRM hybrid block, dubbed G-Chill by GIGABYTE, can operate with or without coolant. The block itself consists of a nickel-plated copper base plate, an acrylic top plate, a metal overplate, and a plastic cover to give it a unified appearance with the rest of the board components. The inlet and outlet ports are sealed with port covers by default, and are G1/4" threaded for use with any after-market water fittings currently available.

Continue reading our preview of the GIGABYTE Z270X-Gaming 8 motherboard!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Overview

It's been a few weeks since we took a look at our first gaming notebook with NVIDIA's Max-Q design, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus. We briefly touched on the broad array of announced Max-Q Notebooks on that review, and today we are taking a look at the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro.

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One of the first notebooks to feature the GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design, the MSI GS63VR is a more traditional notebook form factor than the GTX 1080-toting ASUS ROG Zephyrus. In fact, the GS series has been a long running line of thin-and-light gaming notebooks from MSI. What is new though is the avalability of a GTX 1070-class option in this chassis. The GS63VR previously topped out with the GTX 1060 as the highest end option.

MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-002  (configuration as reviewed)
Processor Intel Core i7-7700HQ (Kaby Lake)
Graphics NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design (8GB)
Memory 32GB DDR4
Screen 15.6-in 1920x1080 120Hz
Storage

512GB Samsung PM871a M.2 SATA SSD

1TB Seagate 5400RPM HDD

Camera 1080p
Wireless Intel 8265 802.11ac (2x2) + BT 4.1
Connections

Ethernet
HDMI 2.0
3x USB 3.0
Thunderbolt 3
Mini DisplayPort
1x USB 2.0
Audio combo jack

Battery 57 Wh
Dimensions 379.98mm x 248.92mm x17.53mm (14.96" x 9.80" x 0.69")
3.96 lbs. (1792 g)
OS Windows 10 Pro
Price $2399 - Newegg.com

Taking a look a look at the exact notebook configuration we are testing, we find a well-equipped gaming notebook. In addition to the GTX 1070 Max-Q, we find a 35W Quad-Core mobile CPU from Intel, 32GB of system RAM, and plentiful storage options including both M.2 SSD and traditional 2.5" SATA drive configurations. This specific notebook is equipped with a SATA M.2 SSD, but this notebook will also support PCIe devices with the same M.2 port.

Continue reading our review of the MSI GS63VR Gaming Notebook!

Author:
Manufacturer: Seasonic

Introduction and Features

Introduction

Seasonic’s new FOCUS Plus family of power supplies currently includes two different series ranging from 550W up to 850W output capacity with either Platinum or Gold efficiency certification. Earlier this year we looked at the FOCUS Plus Gold (FX) 650W power supply and found it to be an excellent new addition to Seasonic’s lineup. In this review we will be taking a detailed look at the Seasonic FOCUS Plus Platinum (PX) 550W power supply. And to insure that reviewers are not being sent hand-picked golden samples, Seasonic once again arranged to have our sample delivered straight from Newegg.com inventory.

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The Seasonic FOCUS Plus Platinum series includes four models: 550W, 650W, 750W, and 850W. In addition to 80 Plus Platinum certification, the FOCUS Plus (PX) series features a small footprint chassis (140mm deep), all modular cables, high quality components, and comes backed by a 10-year warranty.

•    FOCUS Plus Platinum (PX) 550W: $99.90 USD
•    FOCUS Plus Platinum (PX) 650W: $109.90 USD
•    FOCUS Plus Platinum (PX) 750W: $119.90 USD
•    FOCUS Plus Platinum (PX) 850W: $139.90 USD

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Seasonic FOCUS Plus 550W Platinum (PX) PSU Key Features:

•    550W Continuous DC output at up to 50°C
•    80 PLUS Platinum certified for high efficiency
•    Small footprint: chassis measures just 140mm (5.5”) deep
•    Tight voltage regulation ±3% (3.3V, 5V, and 12V)
•    Fully-modular cables
•    DC-to-DC Voltage converters
•    Single +12V output
•    Multi-GPU Technology support
•    Quiet 120mm Fluid Dynamic Bearing (FDB) cooling fan
•    Seasonic Hybrid Silent Fan Control
•    Active Power Factor correction with Universal AC input (100 to 240 VAC)
•    Safety protections: OPP, OVP, UVP, OCP, OTP and SCP
•    10-Year warranty

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Here is what Seasonic has to say about their new FOCUS Plus 550W Platinum PSU:

The fully modular, 80 PLUS® Platinum rated FOCUS+ Platinum 550 watt unit is based on the DC to DC Converter Design and its electric performance characteristics are impressive with their tight voltage regulation. These power supplies use high temperature Japanese capacitors to ensure stability under extreme conditions. Besides its stability and remarkable output characteristics, this unit has the highest power density in its class. Silence enthusiasts will appreciate the Seasonic Hybrid Silent Fan Control system that is the industry’s first three-phased advanced thermal control to achieve optimal balance between silence and cooling.

Due to its small form factor the FOCUS PLUS power supply is a great solution for those who want to build smaller systems and care about the airy arrangement inside their computer case. The fully modular cables are easy to install, save space inside the computer case and provide ample customization and upgrading possibilities at the same time. This mid power range power supply is not only small, but mean too. It boasts the highest power density in its class and it also has remarkable stability and output characteristics during operation.

Please continue reading our review of the FOCUS+ 550W Platinum PSU!!!

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!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Can you hear me now?

One of the more significant downsides to modern gaming notebooks is noise. These devices normally have small fans that have to spin quickly to cool the high-performance components found inside. While the answer for loud gaming desktops might be a nice set of headphones, for notebooks that may be used in more public spaces, that's not necessarily a good solution for friends or loved ones.

Attempting to address the problem of loud gaming notebooks, NVIDIA released a technology called WhisperMode. WhisperMode launched alongside NVIDIA's Max-Q design notebooks earlier this year, but it will work with any notebook enabled with an NVIDIA GTX 1060 or higher. This software solution aims to limit noise and power consumption of notebooks by restricting the frame rate of your game to a reasonable compromise of performance, noise, and power levels. NVIDIA has profiled over 400 games to find this sweet spot and added profiles for those games to WhisperMode technology.

WhisperMode is enabled through the NVIDIA GeForce Experience application.

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From GFE, you can also choose to "Optimize games for WhisperMode." This will automatically adjust settings (in-game) to complement the frame rate target control of WhisperMode.

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If you want to adjust the Frame Rate Target, that must be done in the traditional NVIDIA Control Panel and is done on a per app basis. The target can be set at intervals of 5 FPS from 30 to the maximum refresh of your display. Having to go between two pieces of software to tweak these settings seems overly complex and hopefully some upcoming revamp of the NVIDIA software stack might address this user interface falacy. 

To put WhisperMode through its paces, we tried it on two notebooks - one with a GTX 1070 Max-Q (the MSI GS63VR) and one with a GTX 1080 Max-Q (the ASUS ROG Zephyrus). Our testing consisted of two games, Metro: Last Light and Hitman. Both of these games were run for 15 minutes to get the system up to temperature and achieve sound measurements that are more realistic to extended gameplay sessions. Sound levels were measured with our Extech 407739 Sound Level Meter placed at a distance of 6 inches from the given notebooks, above the keyboard and offset to the right.

Continue reading our review of the new NVIDIA WhisperMode technology!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Clutch Chairz

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Clutch Chairz

The Throttle Series Gaming Chair is the king of Clutch Chairz gaming line, hosting the largest chairs in the cornucopia of offerings. The Throttle Series chairs are built to accommodate what I like to refer to as "normal-sized" gamers, being those of us more weathered enthusiasts in our 30-to-40 somethings with kids at various states of schooling. The series is built with larger profile seats and seat backs to better accommodate "normal-sized" people with its steel skeleton covered in soft leather and memory foam for premium comfort. That premium comfort comes with a premium price with the Throttle Series Gaming Chair MSRP coming in at $469.99.

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Courtesy of Clutch Chairz

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Courtesy of Clutch Chairz

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Courtesy of Clutch Chairz

As shown in the pics, the Throttle Series chair comes with two support pillows, an upper pillow with straps for neck support and a lower large pillow for lumbar support. Both support pillows are made from the same memory foam material as the chair. The chair itself has an adjustable seat back that goes between 90 and 180 degrees, as well as allowing for rocking without fear of tipping. Its armrests are adjustable in 4 dimensions and the seat can be height adjusted as well. From the detailed dimensions shown (all in mm), you get a better picture of just how large a Throttle Series chair is and the superb upper limits it can support.

Continue reading our review of the Clutch Chairz Throttle Series Gaming Chair!

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!

Author:
Manufacturer: bequiet!

Introduction and Features

Introduction

BeQuiet! recently expanded their power supply lineup with the addition of two new small form factor (SFX-L) units, the SFX-L 500W and SFX-L 600W. The new power supplies are fully modular and optimized for quiet operation as you might expect from BeQuiet!. The SFX-L 500W and SFX-L 600W are 80 Plus Gold certified for high efficiency and feature a high-quality 120mm cooling fan thanks to the lengthened SFX-L chassis design.

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While SFX-L power supplies are designed for use in small form factor enclosures, the BeQuiet! SFX-L power supplies can also be used in standard ATX cases to save room via the included SFX to ATX adapter bracket. However, keep in mind the cables are quite short as these power supplies are mainly intended for Small Form Factor builds. We will be taking a detailed look at the new BeQuiet! SFX-L 600W power supply in this review.

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BeQuiet! SFX-L 600W PSU Key Features:

•    Compact design for Small Form Factor PC systems
•    High-quality 120mm cooling fan with Fluid Dynamic Bearing
•    All-modular, flat ribbon-style cables
•    80 Plus Gold certified for high efficiency up to 92%
•    Powerful +12V rail design (50A) for high stability
•    Safety Protections: OCP, OVP, UVP, OPP, OTP, and SCP
•    MSRP for SFX-L 600W: $119.99 USD

Specifications

The BeQuiet! SFX-L 600W power supply is rated for a combined, continuous output power of 600 watts at up to 40°C max operating temperature. The PSU incorporates a single +12V rail that can deliver up to 50A, the full rated capacity of 600W.  The PSU includes universal AC line input (automatically adjusts the AC line voltage 100-240 VAC) and active PFC, which makes the unit more environmentally friendly to the local power grid.  

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Please continue reading our review of the BeQuiet! SFX-L 600W PSU!!!

Manufacturer: Koolance

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Koolance

With the introduction of the CPU-390 series blocks, Koolance improved on their CPU-380 series block design. The CPU-390 was designed with a different flow design in it top cap with the inlet port closer to the block center. Further, the micro-channel design in the base plate was enhanced with finer grain channels, dramatically increasing the surface area through which the coolant passes through the baseplate. The block under review is their Intel CPU-390CI water block, featuring a factory installed Intel mounting kit as well as a full nickel-plated copper top. With an MSRP of $89.99, the CPU-390CI waterblock comes at a premium price for the premium performance it offers.

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Courtesy of Koolance

The block bottom is nickel-plated copper, machined flat and polished to a mirror-like sheen. The block is assembled with hex-head screws going through the copper base plate with the screw heads flush with its surface.

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Courtesy of Koolance

The CPU-390CI block comes factory assembled with the Intel universal mounting bracket. Packaged in with the block are the LGA-115X and multi-socket backplates, backplate rubber spacer, LGA-2011 and multi-socket mounting hardware, allen wrench, and a tube of Koolance-branded thermal compound.

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Courtesy of Koolance

Koolance also provided their AMD socket AM4 mounting kit. The kit includes a mounting bracket that fits over the base block, a back plate, a rubber spacer, and threaded mount nuts.

Technical Specifications (taken from the manufacturer website)

Water Block Specifications
Weight 0.94 lb (0.43 kg)
Materials Nickel-Plated Copper, Stainless Steel, EPDM
Max Pressure @ 25°C 2kgf/cm2 (28.5psi)
Max Temperature 80°C (176°F)
Intel socket support Intel socket LGA 2011 / 2011-v3 (Square ILM only)
Intel socket LGA 1150
Intel socket LGA 1151
Intel socket LGA 1155 / 1156
Intel socket LGA 1366 (may require BLT-CPASZD12 for fixed motherboard back plates)
Intel socket LGA 775
AMD socket support AMD socket AM4
AMD socket AM2, AM2+
AMD socket AM3, AM3+
AMD socket FM1, FM2, FM2+

Continue reading our review of the Koolance CPU-390CI CPU water block!

Author:
Manufacturer: Seasonic

Introduction and Features

Introduction

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Seasonic began introducing their new PRIME Series power supplies last year and we have reviewed several of the flagship PRIME units and found them to be among the best power supplies we have tested to date. The PRIME Series currently includes fourteen different models that range from 650W up to 1200W and offer 80 Plus Titanium, Platinum or Gold certification for high efficiency.

Sea Sonic Electronics Co., Ltd has been designing and building PC power supplies since 1981 and not only do they market power supplies under their own Seasonic name but they are the OEM for many other big name brands.

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In this review we will be taking a detailed look at the Seasonic PRIME 1000W Platinum PSU. This unit comes with all modular cables and is certified to comply with the 80 Plus Platinum criteria for high efficiency. The power supply is designed to deliver very tight voltage regulation on the three primary rails (+3.3V, +5V and +12V) and provides superior AC ripple and noise suppression. Add in a super-quiet 135mm cooling fan with a Fluid Dynamic Bearing, top-quality components and a 12-year warranty, and you have the makings for yet another outstanding power supply.

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Seasonic PRIME Platinum Series PSU Key Features:

•    650W, 750W, 850W, 1000W or 1200W continuous DC output
•    High efficiency, 80 PLUS Platinum certified
•    Micro-Tolerance Load Regulation (MTLR)
•    Top-quality 135mm Fluid Dynamic Bearing fan
•    Premium Hybrid Fan Control (allows fanless operation at low power)
•    Superior AC ripple and noise suppression
•    Fully modular cabling design
•    Multi-GPU technologies supported
•    Gold-plated high-current terminals
•    Protections: OPP,OVP,UVP,SCP,OCP and OTP
•    12-Year Manufacturer’s warranty
•    MSRP for the PRIME 1000W Platinum is $199.90 USD

Please continue reading our review of the Seasonic PRIME 1000W Platinum PSU!!!

Author:
Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: Acer

Acer Predator Z271T With Tobii Eye Tracking

It seems like it's never been a better time to be a PC gamer. With new technologies like VR, AR, HDR, adaptive sync, and high refresh rates being introduced or improved upon at a rapid pace, there's always something new and exciting right around the corner.

Today, we're taking a look at one new technology that promises to bridge the gap between traditional monitors and full-blown VR or AR setups: eye tracking. Originally developed for its use as an assistive device for users with disabilities, eye tracking is making a big jump to gaming, as it can both provide an additional method of control input as well as alter the way the user experiences the game.

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We first took a look at Tobii a few years ago with an early standalone eye tracking device. Now Tobii eye tracking is starting to make its way directly into monitors, and we spent some time with one such monitor: the Acer Predator Z271T.

Specs & Box Contents

The Acer Predator Z271T -- which I'll refer to as "Z27" going forward -- is a $700 27-inch monitor with a curved VA panel, 1920x1080 native resolution, and 144Hz refresh rate. The complete technical specifications:

  Acer Predator Z271T
Screen Size 27-inch
Curve Ratio 1800R
Response Time 4ms
Aspect Ratio 16:9
Backlight Technology LED
Panel Technology Vertical Alignment (VA)
Tilt Angle -5 to +25 degrees
Viewing Angle 178 degrees horizontal/vertical
Maximum Adjustable Height 4.72 inches
Video
Maximum Resolution 1920x1080
Standard Refresh Rate 144 Hz
Color Supported 16.7 Million
Contrast Ratio 3,000:1
Brightness 300 nits
Tearing Prevention Technology G-SYNC
Audio
Speakers 2 x 7W
Interfaces/Ports
DisplayPort Yes
HDMI Yes
3.5mm Audio Output Yes
USB 3.0 Yes (4-port hub)
Power Description
Operating Power Consumption 27 watts
Standby Power Consumption 500 mW
Off-Mode Power Consumption 400 mW
Physical Characteristics (with stand)
VESA Mount Compatible Yes (100mm x 100mm)
Height 20.4 inches
Width 24.4 inches
Depth 10.6 inches
Weight 16.76 pounds
Miscellaneous
Package Contents 1 x DisplayPort cable
1 x HDMI cable
1 x USB 3.0 Cable
Power cord

In terms of physical characteristics, the Z27 weighs in at 16.76lbs and is 20.4-inches high, 24.4-inches wide, and 10.6-inches deep when attached to its included stand. From the stand, the Z27 can tilt from -5 degrees to 25 degrees, and swivel up to 30 degrees side-to-side.

Continue reading to check out our impressions of both the current state of Tobii eye tracking tech, as well as how it works when implemented into a modern gaming display.

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Specifications

Corsair has released a premium version of their VOID headset with the VOID PRO family, which includes wired and wireless option boasting major improvements to the previous designs.

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“We made it better. Building upon the success of CORSAIR’s VOID series of headsets, VOID PRO features various significant enhancements across comfort, sound, mic quality and wireless performance designed to provide an even better gaming experience. VOID PRO resets the bar and delivers best-in-class performance.“

Surely, every major segment of the PC accessory market has reached saturation at this point, with the gaming headset market one of the most crowded. Companies need to offer more than just style and value to differentiate at the high end, with sound quality - including the microphone - now beginning to get some much-needed attention.

At times, aggressive styling and an apparent obsession with low bass seemed to dominate design choices, but a more balanced and accurate sound provides the kind of fidelity that can transform gaming and entertainment into a truly immersive experience. So, can Corsair match the improvements of such competitors as Logitech and provide a more premium sonic experience? We will find out!

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Continue reading our review of the Corsair VOID PRO RGB Wireless SE gaming headset!

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!!

Author:
Manufacturer: Intel

A surprise twist from Intel

Any expectations I had of a slower and less turbulent late summer and fall for the technology and hardware segments is getting shattered today with the beginning stages of Intel’s 8th Generation Core Processors. If you happen to think that this 8th generation is coming hot on the heels of the 7th generation that only just released to the consumer desktop market in January of this year, you’d be on the same page as me. If you are curious how Intel plans to balance Kaby Lake, Coffee Lake, and Cannon Lake, all releasing in similar time frames and still use terms like “generation,” then again, we are on the same page.

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Today Intel launches the 15-watt version of its 8th Generation Core Processors, based on a refresh of the Kaby Lake CPU design. This not a new architecture nor is this is not a new process node, though Intel does talk about slight changes in design and manufacturing that make it possible. The U-series processors that make up the majority of the thin and light and 2-in-1 designs for consumers and businesses are getting a significant upgrade in performance with this release. The Core i7 and Core i5 processors being announced will all be quad-core, HyperThreaded designs, moving us away from the world of dual-core processors in the 7th generation. Doubling core and thread count, while remaining inside the 15-watt thermal envelope for designs, is an incredible move and will strengthen Intel’s claim to this very important and very profitable segment.

Let’s look at the specifications table first. After all, we’re all geeks here.

  Core i7-8650U Core i7-8550U Core i5-8350U Core i5-8250U Core i7-7600U Core i7-7500U
Architecture Kaby Lake Refresh Kaby Lake Refresh Kaby Lake Refresh Kaby Lake Refresh Kaby Lake Kaby Lake
Process Tech 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+
Socket BGA1356 BGA1356 BGA1356 BGA1356 BGA1356 BGA1356
Cores/Threads 4/8 4/8 4/8 4/8 2/4 2/4
Base Clock 1.9 GHz 1.8 GHz 1.7 GHz 1.6 GHz 2.8 GHz 2.7 GHz
Max Turbo Clock 4.2 GHz 4.0 GHz 3.8 GHz 3.6 GHz 3.9 GHz 3.5 GHz
Memory Tech DDR4/LPDDR3 DDR4/LPDDR3 DDR4/LPDDR3 DDR4/LPDDR3 DDR4/LPDDR3 DDR4/LPDDR3
Memory Speeds 2400/2133 2400/2133 2400/2133 2400/2133 2133/1866 2133/1866
Cache (L4 Cache) 8MB 8MB 6MB 6MB 4MB 4MB
System Bus DMI3 - 8.0 GT/s DMI3 - 8.0 GT/s DMI2 - 6.4 GT/s DMI2 - 5.0 GT/s DMI2 - 5.0 GT/s DMI2 - 5.0 GT/s
Graphics UHD Graphics 620 UHD Graphics 620 UHD Graphics 620 UHD Graphics 620 HD Graphics 620 HD Graphics 620
Max Graphics Clock 1.15 GHz 1.15 GHz 1.1 GHz 1.1 GHz 1.15 GHz 1.05 GHz
TDP 15W 15W 15W 15W 15W 15W
MSRP $409 $409 $297 $297 $393 $393

The only differences between the Core i7 and Core i5 designs will be in cache size (Core i5 has 6MB, Core i7 has 8MB) and the clock speeds of the processors. All of them feature four true Kaby Lake cores with HyperThreading enabled to support 8 simultaneous threads in a notebook. Dual channel memory capable of speeds of 2400 MHz in DDR4 and 2133 MHz in LPDDR3 remain. The integrated graphics portion offers the same performance as the 7th generation designs, though the branding has moved from Intel HD Graphics to Intel UHD Graphics. Because Ultra.

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But take a gander at the clock speeds. The base clock on the four new CPUs range from 1.6 GHz to 1.9 GHz, with 100 MHz steps as you go up the SKU ladder. Those are low frequencies for modern processors, no doubt, but Intel has always been very conservative when it comes to setting specs for base frequency. This is the speed that Intel guarantees the processors will run at when the CPU is fully loaded using a 15-watt TDP cooling design. Keeping in mind that we moved from dual-core to quad-core processors, it makes sense that these base frequencies would drop. Intel doesn’t expect users in thin and light machines to utilize all 8 threads for very long, or very often, and instead focuses on shorter use cases for multi-threaded workloads (photo manipulation) that might run at 3.x GHz. If this period of time is short enough, the cooling solution will be able to “catch up” and keep the core within a reasonable range.

Continue reading about the new 8th Generation Intel Core Processors!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction:

Back in January of 2016, Samsung launched the Portable SSD T1. This was a good way to get more of their VNAND flash out into the market in the form of a speedy and portable USB connected SSD. The launch went so well that they followed it up with the T3 in early 2016. While the T1 maxed out at 1TB of capacity, the T2 pushed that to 2TB, which remains the market sweet spot for max portable capacity today. As increased flash densities come out, it became time for Samsung to refresh the lineup:

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Meet the Samsung Portable SSD T5. This new version is ever so slightly smaller than the T3, while packing a 256Gbit die version of Samsung's 64-layer VNAND, along with a newer USB controller that should help get closer to the internal SATA 6Gbit speed of the device.

Specs:

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Most specs are nearly identical to the T3, with a notable increase to 540MB/s throughput, thanks to the faster interface capability.

Packaging:

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Straightforward packaging with a notable inclusion of both Type-C to A and C to C cables. The T3 and T1 came with only Type-A.

Author:
Manufacturer: AMD

A confusing market

I feel like I have been writing about AMD non-stop in 2017. Starting with the release of Ryzen 7 and following through last week’s review of the HEDT Threadripper processor, AMD has gone from a nearly-dormant state in 2015-2016 to a wildly active and successful organization with more than a dozen new product launches under its belt. Today we will reveal the company's first consumer products based on the new Vega GPU architecture, thrusting the Radeon brand back into the fight at the $400+ price segments.

At this point, with architecture teases, product unboxings, professional card reviews, and pricing and availability reveals, we almost know everything we need to know about the new Radeon RX Vega 64 and RX Vega 56 products. Almost. Today we can show you the performance.

I want to be honest with our readers: AMD gave me so little time with these cards that I am going to gloss over some of the more interesting technological and architectural changes that Vega brings to market. I will come back to them at a later time, but I feel it is most important for us to talk about the performance and power characteristics of these cards as consumers finally get the chance to spend their hard-earned money on them.

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If you already know about the specifications and pricing peculiarities of Vega 64 and Vega 56 and instead want direct access to performance results, I encourage you to skip ahead. If you want a refresher those details, check out the summary below.

Interesting statistics from the creation of this review in a VERY short window:

  • 175 graphs 
  • 8 cards, 8 games, 2 resolutions, 3 runs = 384 test runs
  • >9.6 TB of raw captured video (average ~25 GB/min)

Radeon RX Vega 64 and Vega 56 Specifications

Much of the below is sourced from our Vega 64/56 announcement story last month.

Though the leaks have been frequent and getting closer to reality, as it turns out AMD was in fact holding back quite a bit of information about the positioning of RX Vega for today. Radeon will launch the Vega 64 and Vega 56 today, with three different versions of the Vega 64 on the docket. Vega 64 uses the full Vega 10 chip with 64 CUs and 4096 stream processors. Vega 56 will come with 56 CUs enabled (get it?) and 3584 stream processors.

Pictures of the various product designs have already made it out to the field including the Limited Edition with the brushed anodized aluminum shroud, the liquid cooled card with a similar industrial design, and the more standard black shroud version that looks very similar to the previous reference cards from AMD.

  RX Vega 64 Liquid RX Vega 64 Air RX Vega 56 Vega Frontier Edition GTX 1080 Ti GTX 1080 TITAN X GTX 980 R9 Fury X
GPU Vega 10 Vega 10 Vega 10 Vega 10 GP102 GP104 GM200 GM204 Fiji XT
GPU Cores 4096 4096 3584 4096 3584 2560 3072 2048 4096
Base Clock 1406 MHz 1247 MHz 1156 MHz 1382 MHz 1480 MHz 1607 MHz 1000 MHz 1126 MHz 1050 MHz
Boost Clock 1677 MHz 1546 MHz 1471 MHz 1600 MHz 1582 MHz 1733 MHz 1089 MHz 1216 MHz -
Texture Units 256 256 224 256 224 160 192 128 256
ROP Units 64 64 64 64 88 64 96 64 64
Memory 8GB 8GB 8GB 16GB 11GB 8GB 12GB 4GB 4GB
Memory Clock 1890 MHz 1890 MHz 1600 MHz 1890 MHz 11000 MHz 10000 MHz 7000 MHz 7000 MHz 1000 MHz
Memory Interface 2048-bit HBM2 2048-bit HBM2 2048-bit HBM2 2048-bit HBM2 352-bit G5X 256-bit G5X 384-bit 256-bit 4096-bit (HBM)
Memory Bandwidth 484 GB/s 484 GB/s 410 GB/s 484 GB/s 484 GB/s 320 GB/s 336 GB/s 224 GB/s 512 GB/s
TDP 345 watts 295 watts 210 watts 300 watts 250 watts 180 watts 250 watts 165 watts 275 watts
Peak Compute 13.7 TFLOPS 12.6 TFLOPS 10.5 TFLOPS 13.1 TFLOPS 10.6 TFLOPS 8.2 TFLOPS 6.14 TFLOPS 4.61 TFLOPS 8.60 TFLOPS
Transistor Count 12.5B 12.5B 12.5B 12.5B 12.0B 7.2B 8.0B 5.2B 8.9B
Process Tech 14nm 14nm 14nm 14nm 16nm 16nm 28nm 28nm 28nm
MSRP (current) $699 $499 $399 $999 $699 $599 $999 $499 $649

If you are a frequent reader of PC Perspective, you have already seen our reviews of the Vega Frontier Edition air cooled and liquid cards, so some of this is going to look very familiar. Looking at the Vega 64 first, we need to define the biggest change to the performance ratings of RX and FE versions of the Vega architecture. When we listed the “boost clock” of the Vega FE cards, and really any Radeon cards previous to RX Vega, we were referring the maximum clock speed of the card in its out of box state. This was counter to the method that NVIDIA used for its “boost clock” rating that pointed towards a “typical” clock speed that the card would run at in a gaming workload. Essentially, the NVIDIA method was giving consumers a more realistic look at how fast the card would be running while AMD was marketing the theoretical peak with perfect thermals, perfect workloads. This, to be clear, never happened.

Continue reading our review of the Radeon RX Vega 64, Vega 64 Liquid, and Vega 56!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction

Today Corsair launched their first ever HHHL form factor SSD, the NX500:

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Just from the looks of this part, it is clear they were pulling out all the stops with respect to product design. This is certainly one of the most impressive looking SSDs we have seen come through our lab, and it will certainly be the type of thing enthusiasts would show off in their system builds. The NX500 is also likely to be the best showcase of Phison's new E7 controller. I'm just as eager to see if this SSD performs as well as it looks, so let's get to the review!

Specifications

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The specifications here are in line what we would expect for a modern day NVMe SSD. Note that ratings are identical for the 400GB and 800GB models, aside from a doubling of endurance due to the corresponding doubling of flash. There were some additional details in our press kit:

Extreme Performance
The Phison PS5007-E7
Description: PS5007-E7 is Phison’s first NVMe controller designed for high performance application. Supporting up to 8-channels in its NAND Flash interface.
Extreme Reliability
Multiple features are built into the PS5007-E7 to ensure stability and reliability.
SmartECC™ – Reconstructs defective/faulty pages when regular ECC fails
SmartRefresh™ – Monitors block ECC health status and refreshes blocks periodically to improve data retention
SmartFlush™ – Minimizes time data spends in cache to ensure data retention in the event of power loss
Extreme Control
The Neutron NX500 SSD with Phison PS5007-E7 controller works with CORSAIR SSD Toolbox.
Drive monitoring – Monitor the health of your Force Series
Secure wipe – For security purposes, completely clear the drive of any recoverable data
Firmware update – Install updated firmware as needed

As the Phison E7 is a new controller, it's worth taking a look at the internals:

Phison PS5007-E7.png

Highlights from above are 8 channels to the flash, ONFI 3.2 and Toggle 2.0 support (covering most flash memory types), along with support for all modes (SLC/MLC/TLC).

Packaging

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I haven't seen SSD packaging this nice since the FusionIO ioDrive, and those parts were far more expensive. Great touch here by Corsair.

Continue reading our full review of the Corsair NX500!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

Who is this for, anyway?

Today is a critically important day for AMD. With the launch of reviews and the on-sale date for its new Ryzen Threadripper processor family, AMD is reentering the world of high-end consumer processors that it has been absent from for a decade, if not longer. Intel has dominated this high priced, but high margin, area of the market since the release of the Core i7-900 series of Nehalem CPUs in 2008, bringing workstation and server class hardware down to the content creator and enthusiast markets. Even at that point AMD had no competitive answer, with only the Phenom X4 in our comparison charts. It didn’t end well.

AMD has made no attempt of stealth with the release of Ryzen Threadripper, instead adopting the “tease and repeat” campaign style that Radeon has utilized in recent years for this release. The result of which is an already-knowledgeable group of pre-order ready consumers; not a coincidence. Today I will summarize the data we already know for those of you just joining us and dive into the importance of the new information we can provide today. That includes interesting technical details on the multi-die implementation and latency, overclocking, thermals, why AMD has a NUMA/UMA issue, gaming performance and of course, general system and workload benchmarks.

Strap in.

A Summary of Threadripper

AMD has been pumping up interest and excitement for Ryzen Threadripper since May, with an announcement of the parts at the company’s financial analyst day. It teased 16 cores and 32 threads of performance for a single consumer socket, something that we had never seen before. At Computex, Jim Anderson got on stage and told us that each Threadripper processor would have access to 64 lanes of PCI Express, exceeding the 40 lanes of Intel’s top HEDT platforms and going well above the 28 lanes that the lower end of its family offers.

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In mid-July the official announcement of the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 1920X occurred, with CEO Lisa Su and CVP John Taylor having the honors. This announcement broke with most of the important information including core count, clock speeds, pricing, and a single performance benchmark (Cinebench). On July 24th we started to see pictures of the Threadripper packaging show up on AMD social media accounts, getting way more attention than anyone expected a box for a CPU could round up. At the end of July AMD announced a third Threadripper processor (due in late August). Finally, on August 3rd, I was allowed to share an unboxing of the review kit and the CPU itself as well as demonstrate the new installation method for this sled-based processor.

It’s been a busy summer.

Continue reading our review of the AMD Ryzen Threadripper 1950X and 1920X!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of MSI

The MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK motherboard features a black PCB with a black chrome overlay covering the board's heat sinks and rear panel cover. The chipset overlay has fingers that extend in between the PCIe x16 slots in the areas just under the two PCIe x1 slots. Further, there is a plastic overlay protecting the audio components above the PCIe slots. MSI integrated LEDS into the rear panel cover, the VRM heat sink, the chipset cover, and the audio cover for a unique look. The board is designed around the Intel X299 chipset with in-built support for the latest Intel LGA2066 Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processor line and Quad Channel DDR4 memory running at a 2667MHz speed. The X299 M7 Gaming ACK can be found in retail with an MRSP of $399.99.

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Courtesy of MSI

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Courtesy of MSI

MSI integrated the following features into the X299 Gaming M7 ACK motherboard: six SATA III 6Gbps ports; two M.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 32Gbps capable ports with Intel Optane support built-in; one U.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 32Gbps port; a Killer E2500 Gigabit controller; a Killer 802.ac wireless controller; four PCI-Express x16 slots; two PCI-Express x1 slots; a Realtek ALC1220 8-Channel audio subsystem; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.

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Courtesy of MSI

To power the X299 Gaming M7 ACK motherboard, MSI integrated a 12 phase digital power delivery system dubbed Military Class VI. The Military Class VI integrated components included Titanium Choke II chokes, 10 year-rated Dark capacitors, and Dark chokes.

Continue reading our preview of the MSI X299 Gaming M7 ACK motherboard!