Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Toshiba

Toshiba RC100 240GB/480GB SSD Review

Introduction:

Budget SSDs are a tough trick to pull off. You have components, a PCB, and ultimately assembly - all things which costs money. Savings can be had when major components (flash) are sourced from within the same company, but there are several companies already playing that game. Another way to go is to reduce PCB size, but then you can only fit so much media on the same board as the controller and other necessary parts. Samsung attempted something like this with its PM971, but that part was never retail, meaning the cost savings were only passed to the OEMs implementing that part into their systems. It would be nice if a manufacturer would put a part like this into the hands of regular customers looking to upgrade their system on a budget, and Toshiba is aiming to do just that with their new RC100 line:

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Not only did Toshiba stack the flash and controller within the same package, they also put that package on an M.2 2242 PCB. No need for additional length here really, and they could have possibly gotten away with M.2 2230, but that might have required some components on the back side of the PCB. Single-sided PCBs are cheaper to produce vs. a PCB that is 12mm longer, so the design decision makes sense here.

Specifications:

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Bear in mind these are budget parts and small ones at that. The specs are decent, but these are not meant to be fire-breathing SSDs. The PCIe 3.0 x2 interface will be limiting things a bit, and these are geared more towards power efficiency with a typical active power draw of only 3.2 Watts. While we were not sampled the 120GB part, it does appear to maintain decent specified performance despite the lower capacity, which is a testament to the performance of Toshiba's 64-layer 3D BiCS TLC flash.

Packaging:

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Not much to talk about here. Simple, no frills, SSD packaging. Just enough to ensure the product arrives undamaged. Mission accomplished.

Read on for our full review of the Toshiba RC100 240GB and 480GB SSDs!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

A Weekend of Misadventure

Last Friday marked the release of the Intel Core i7-8086K to consumers through retail channels like Amazon, Newegg, and Microcenter. Announced just earlier that week at Computex, the i7-8086K is essentially an i7-8770K, running slightly higher clock speeds, and is meant as a limited edition item to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Intel’s 8086 processor, which marked the beginning of the x86 microarchitecture.

Eager to test this new CPU, I picked one up from our local Microcenter on Friday evening, and plugged it into our Coffee Lake CPU testbed, powered by a Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard (updated to the latest BIOS), let my first pass of automated CPU benchmarks run, and went off with the rest of my evening.

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Saturday, when I came back to look at the results, they seemed mediocre at best, with the i7-8086K trading blows with the i7-8700K. While the extra 300MHz of clock speed seemed like it would provide more of a benefit than I was seeing, it wasn’t entirely unexpected that performance might not be spectacularly higher than the i7-8700K so I continued to run through the rest of our standard CPU benchmarking suite, as well as our CPU gaming benchmarks.

Finally looking at all of the data together, it appeared there was no change from the i7-8700K to the i7-8086K leading me to do some more digging.

Equipped with Intel’s Extreme Tuning Utility, I began to measure the clock speeds during several benchmarks.

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Much to my surprise, even on purely single-threaded workload, such as Cinebench R15 in Single mode, the processor wasn’t getting close to its 5.0GHz Single Core Turbo Boost frequency, in fact, I never saw it get above 4.5GHz. We corroborated these issues with another piece of CPU monitoring software, HWInfo64.

As you can see in the screenshot from XTU, the processor was sitting at a cool 48C while this was going on, and no other alerts such as the motherboard power delivery or current limit throttling were an issue during our testing.

Moving to another motherboard, the ASUS Strix Z370-H Gaming, again on the latest UEFI release, we saw the same behavior.

So far, we have been unable to get this processor to operate at the advertised 5.0GHz Turbo Boost frequency, on a multitude of different hardware and software setups.

However, if we manually overclock the processor, we can get an all-core frequency of 5.1GHz, although with a temperature around 85C.

At this point, we are left puzzled and disappointed by the launch of the i7-8086K. This is the same hardware and software setup we used for all of our CPU benchmarking for the recent Ryzen 7 2700X review, with no issues. We even tried a fresh, fully updated Windows install on a separate SSD, to help eliminate any potential for weird software issues.

Jeff at The Tech Report used the same Gigabyte Z370 Aorus Gaming 7 motherboard as us, and while he didn’t see great performance overall, you can see explicit scaling in pure single-threaded workloads like Cinebench in his review.

As far as the ASUS motherboard we also tried is concerned, the i7-8086K is listed on ASUS’ CPU compatibility list for UEFI 1301 (which we are running), so it seems there should be no issue.

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This morning, the i7-8086K we ordered on Amazon showed up, and did the exact same thing, in both test setups. 

To be fair, based on the reviews that we have seen pop up thus far, including The Tech Report, the resulting performance if things were configured correctly doesn’t appear to be worth the extra cost.

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What was meant to be a celebration of Intel’s 40 years of the X86 architecture seems more like a rushed release than a fully baked product. Remember, we bought this processor directly from a retail outlet with no intervention from Intel. Without the proper BIOS-level support, and potentially a more widespread issue affecting normal consumers building machines with i7-8086K.

Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

A little Optane for your HDD

Intel's Optane Memory caching solution, launched in April of 2017, was a straightforward feature. On supported hardware platforms, consisting of 7th and 8th generation Core processor-based computers, users could add a 16 or 32gb Optane M.2 module to their PC and enable acceleration for their slower boot device (generally a hard drive). Beyond that, there weren't any additional options; you could only enable and disable the caching solution. 

However, users who were looking for more flexibility were out of luck. If you already had a fast boot device, such as an NVMe SSD, you had no use for these Optane Memory modules, even if you a slow hard drive in their system for mass storage uses that you wanted to speed up.

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At GDC this year, Intel alongside the announcement of 64GB Optane Memory modules, announced that they are bringing support for secondary drive acceleration to the Optane Memory application.

Now that we've gotten our hands on this new 64GB module and the appropriate software, it's time to put it through its paces and see if it was worth the wait.

Performance

The full test setup is as follows:

Test System Setup
CPU

Intel Core i7-8700K

Motherboard Gigabyte H370 Aorus Gaming 3 
Memory

16GB Crucial DDR4-2666 (running at DDR4-2666)

Storage

Intel SSD Optane 800P 

Intel Optane Memory 64GB and 1TB Western Digital Black

Sound Card On-board
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080Ti 11GB
Graphics Drivers NVIDIA 397.93
Power Supply Corsair RM1000x
Operating System Windows 10 Pro x64 RS4

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In coming up with test scenarios to properly evaluate drive caching on a secondary, mass storage device, we had a few criteria. First, we were looking for scenarios that require lots of storage, meaning that they wouldn't fit on a smaller SSD. In addition to requiring a lot of storage, the applications must also rely on fast storage. 

Click here to continue reading our look at accelerating secondary drives with Optane

Author:
Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ASUS

Is it a usable feature?

EDIT: We've received some clarification from Intel on this feature:

"The feature is actually apart of RST. While this is a CPU-attached storage feature, it is not VROC. VROC is a CPU-attached PCIe Storage component of the enterprise version of the product, Intel RSTe. VROC requires the new HW feature Intel Volume Management Device (Intel VMD) which is not available on the Z370 Chipset.

The Intel Rapid Storage Technology for CPU-attached Intel PCIe Storage feature is supported with select Intel chipsets and requires system manufacturer integration. Please contact the system manufacturer for a list of their supported platforms."

While this doesn't change how the feature works, or our testing, we wanted to clarify this point and have removed all references to VROC on Z370 in this review.

While updating our CPU testbeds for some upcoming testing, we came across an odd listing on the UEFI updates page for our ASUS ROG STRIX Z370-E motherboard.

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From the notes, it appeared that the release from late April of this year enables VROC for the Z370 platform. Taking a look at the rest of ASUS' Z370 lineup, it appears that all of its models received a similar UEFI update mentioning VROC. EDIT: As it turns out, while these patch notes call this feature "VROC", it is officially known as "Intel Rapid Storage Technology for CPU-attached Intel PCIe Storage " and slightly different than VROC on other Intel platforms.

While we are familiar with VROC as a CPU-attached RAID technology for NVMe devices on the Intel X299 and Xeon Scalable platforms, it has never been mentioned as an available option for the enthusiast grade Z-series chipsets. Could this be a preview of a feature that Intel has planned to come for the upcoming Z390 chipset?

Potential advantages of a CPU-attached RAID mode on the Z370 platform mostly revolve around throughput. While the chipset raid mode on the Z370 chipset will support three drives, the total throughput is limited to just under 4GB/s by the DMI 3.0 link between the processor and chipset.

Like we've seen AMD do on their X470 platform, CPU-attached RAID should scale as long as you have CPU-connected PCI-Express lanes available, and not being used by another device like a GPU or network card.

First, some limitations.

Primarily, it's difficult to connect multiple NVMe devices to the CPU rather than the chipset on most Z370 motherboards. Since the platform natively supports NVMe RAID through the Z370 chipset, all of the M.2 slots on our Strix Z370-E are wired to go through the chipset connection rather than directly to the CPU's PCIe lanes.

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To combat this, we turned to the ASUS Hyper M.2 X16 card, which utilizes PCIe bifurcation to enable usage of 4 M.2 devices via one PCI-E X16 slot. Luckily, ASUS has built support for bifurcation, and this Hyper M.2 card into the UEFI for the Strix Z370-E.

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Aiming to simplify the setup, we are using the integrated UHD 620 graphics of the i7-8700K, and running the Hyper M.2 card in the primary PCIe slot, usually occupied by a discrete GPU.

Continue reading our look at CPU-attached NVMe RAID on Z370 motherboards from ASUS!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Qualcomm

Always On, Always Connected

At Computex this week, Qualcomm unveiled its second generation of processor platform for Windows PCs, the Snapdragon 850 Mobile Compute Platform. Along with the new branding that attempts to separate the solutions provided for mobile phones from PCs, the chip gets some interesting and necessary upgrades from the currently shipping Snapdragon 835.

Qualcomm has been building and defining the segment and role of the Always On, Always Connected PC since it first started talking up its move into Windows 10 territory in 2017. The company still believes that longer battery life, an always connected device that is instant on, and a fast and constant wireless LTE connection are ingredients for a solution that consumers want and that is not being addressed by Intel or AMD today. I tend to agree with them, though it is a fair belief that the first generation devices still lack in the performance department; enough to warrant some negative reviews from media.

In favor of Qualcomm’s direction, the PC users demand for cellular data connections and extremely high battery life appear to be growing. As Intel struggles with its processor and process technology development, Qualcomm is able to iterate and improve on its performance and efficiency with its partners Arm and TSMC helping along the way. Qualcomm’s own research shows that awareness and “willingness to pay” for these features has increased year-on-year.

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Technically, the Snapdragon 850 uses the same core IP as SD 845 SoC for smartphones. That includes the Kryo 385 CPU, Adreno 630 GPU, Spectra 280 ISP, Hexagon 685 DSP/vector processor (a new naming shift), and the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem. The difference in naming is mostly to separate the chip options for mobile PCs from mobile phones and tablets, though there are modest performance changes because of higher clock speeds on the Kryo CPU. (2.8 GHz on the SD 845, 2.95 GHz on the SD 850.)

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Compared to the currently shipping Snapdragon 835, the new 850 will offer 30% better performance, 20% better battery life, and even 20% faster peak Gigabit LTE speeds, up to 1.2 Gbps. Both the CPU and GPU integrations definitely faster with the SD 850 compared to the older 835, each seeing architectural changes as well as clock speed increases. That 30% performance increase estimate is evenly weighted across the two primary processing blocks, 30% each.

Efficiency is also improved on each sub-core, giving Qualcomm the ability to lower idle and active power draw, increasing the battery life estimates of the total platform. Considering this is one of the areas where Qualcomm already had a lead over the best Intel options on the market, this is noteworthy, and something that likely concerns Intel.

Continuing reading our preview of the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 850!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech
Tagged: pro, logitech, headset

eSports on a Casual Budget

Slowly but surely, gaming accessories are going to the way of sneakers. Growing up, if you wanted to be a “baller,” you wanted a pair of Jordans. Short of that, you at least wanted a pair of Nikes or Reeboks - something that screamed “sports.” Even though making it to the pros was about as common as winning the lottery, you still wanted to be like the pros with their amazing talent, millions of dollars, and adoring fans. So you’d lace up those shoes and think maybe, just maybe, they’d lend you a little bit of the magic promised in the commercials.

And so it goes with the rise of eSports. With pro gamers now competing in million dollar tournaments and filling out stadiums of their own, PC gaming peripherals are going to the way of Nike, inextricably tying themselves to competitive gaming with marketing and team sponsorships. Yet, at least in some cases, there may be some substance to the hype.

Today, we’re taking a look at the Logitech G Pro gaming headset. Yes, it’s got sponsorships printed on the side of the box and quotes from professional gamers on the product page, but with a renewed focus on performance over flash, could there be more to the G Pro than hype? Let’s find out.

Specifications and Design

  • MSRP: $89.99 (Amazon.com)
  • Driver: Hybrid mesh PRO-G
  • Magnet: Neodymium
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20KHz
  • Impedance: 32 Ohms
  • Sensitivity: 107dB@1KHz SPL 30mW/1cm
  • Noise Isolation: up to 16dB
  • Cable length: 2m
  • Surround: Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos for headphones Compatible
  • Microphone Pickup Pattern: Cardioid (Unidirectional)
  • Microphone Type: Back Electret Condenser
  • Microphone Size: 4mm
  • Microphone Frequency response: 100Hz-10KHz
  • Dimensions: 6.77 in (H) x 3.22in (W) x 7.17 in (D)
  • Weight: (w/o cable): 9.14 oz  (259 g)
  • PC Cable Length: 6.56 ft (2 m)
  • Warranty: 2-Year Limited Hardware Warranty

Materials:

  • Headband: TR90 nylon
  • Joint: Glass fiber reinforced nylon​
  • Slider: Stainless steel
  • Ear and head pads: Leatherette
  • Additional ear pads: Microsuede
  • Earcups: Soft-touch

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Beginning with packaging, we can see the simple approach right from the outset. The box mirrors the headset itself in its low key presentation. The most flash we see is on the rear with a large-text glossy black feature list and a slogan befitting its design: “One Purpose. Play to Win.”

Continue reading our review of the Logitech G Pro headset!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Overview

The initial announcement of Intel and AMD's collaboration on the "8th Gen Intel® Core™ processors With Radeon™ RX Vega M Graphics" (Kaby Lake-G) at CES this year caused a big stir amongst the PC hardware space. 

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Now that we've taken a look at the Intel Hades Canyon NUC and its impressive performance compared to mid-range gaming desktops, it's time to take a look at Kaby Lake-G in the mobile form factor.

Dell's XPS 15 2-in-1 is one of two notebooks utilizing the Intel Kaby Lake-G processor with Vega graphics, alongside the HP Envy Spectre x360.

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Building upon the successful standard clamshell, this new notebook is Dell's first convertible XPS 15, featuring a 360-degree hinge which allows for a variety of configurations including tablet mode where the device folds back on itself.

Dell XPS 15 2-in-1
MSRP $1299 $1499 $1699 $2199
Screen 15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge Anti-Reflective Touch Display 15.6" 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160) InfinityEdge Anti-Reflective Touch Display
CPU Core i5-8305G Core i7-8705G 
GPU AMD Radeon RX Vega M GL Graphics with 4GB HBM2 Memory
RAM 8GB DDR4-2400 (non-upgradable) 16GB DDR4-2400 (non-upgradable)
Storage 128GB SATA 256GB PCIe
Network Killer 1435 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi and Bluetooth
Display Output

2 x Thunderbolt 3
2 x USB 3.1 Type-C (DisplayPort)

Connectivity

2 x Thunderbolt 3
2 x USB 3.1 Type-C
3.5mm headphone
MicroSD Card Reader

Audio Waves MaxxAudio® Pro 2W (1W x 2)
Weight 4.36 lbs (2 Kg)
Dimensions 13.9-in x 9.2-in x 0.36-0.63-in
(354mm x 235mm x 9-1mm)
Battery 75 WHr
Operating System Windows 10 Home / Pro (+$60)

As far as specifications are concerned, the XPS 15 2-in-1 impresses.. With up to a 4K, touch-enabled display, quad core processor, discrete AMD Vega graphics, and up to 16GB of memory, the hardware of the XPS 15 2-in-1 is a compelling package for gamers and content creators alike. For review, we recieved the top of the line XPS 15 2-in-1, with a 512GB SSD instead of the stock 256GB configuration (a $150 upgrade from Dell).

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Continue reading our review of the Dell XPS 15 2-in-1!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Specifications

Corsair’s HS70 gaming headset offers 2.4 GHz wireless operation, the option of 7.1 channel virtual surround effects, 50 mm neodymium drivers, and an impressively light weight. The big questions going into this review, as with all gaming headsets: how do they sound, how comfortable are they, and are they worth the price tag. Let’s find out!

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While you will quickly discover that the majority of this review concerns sound quality, it’s worth first noting the attention Corsair has made with the build quality of the HS70. As the company explains:

“Like all other CORSAIR products, carefully selected materials and components ensure long term reliability. Unlike many competitors that resort to low grade plastic components in critical structural support areas to reduce cost, HS70 WIRELESS uses rigid (AL5052) aluminum alloy yokes and a metal internal headband for increased strength and durability. High quality ABS plastics are used to further reinforce the outer headband and improve impact resistance. We built this headset to last.”

Comfort has also been considered with lightweight construction (330g or about 11.6 oz) as well as memory foam padding in the ear cushions and headband. Clamping force, heat and moisture resistance, and weight distribution have all be considered in this design, according to Corsair, and it all looks really impressive on paper. Now we just need to take it out of the box!

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Continue reading our review of the Corsair HS70 Wireless gaming headset!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ADATA

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

ADATA has a habit of occasionally coming out of the woodwork and dropping a great performing SSD on the market at a highly competitive price. A few of their recent SATA SSD launches were promising, but some were very difficult to find in online stores. This has improved more recently, and current ADATA products now enjoy relatively wide availability. We were way overdue for an ADATA review, and the XPG SX8200 is a great way for us to get back into covering this company's offerings:

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For those unaware, XPG is a computing-related sub-brand of ADATA, and if you have a hard time finding details for these drives online, it is because you must look at their dedicated xpg.com domain. Parent brand ADATA has since branched into LED lighting and other industrial applications, such as solid-state drive motor controllers and the like. Some PC products bear the ADATA name, such as USB drives and external hard drives.

Ok, enough rambling about other stuff. Let's take a look at this XPG SX8200!

Specifications:

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Specs are mostly par for the course here, with a few notable exceptions. The SX8200 opts for a lower available capacity than you would typically see with a TLC SSD. That means a slight bump in OP, which helps nudge endurance higher due to that sacrifice. Another interesting point is that they have simply based their specs of 'up to 3200 MB/s read / 1700 MB/s write' from direct measurements of common benchmarking software. While the tests they used are 'short-run' benchmarks that will remain within the SLC cache of these SSDs, I do applaud ADATA for their openness here.

Packaging:

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Straightforward packaging with a small bonus inside - in the form of a thermal adhesive-backed aluminum heat spreader. This is included as an option since some folks may have motherboards with integrated heat spreading M.2 socket covers or laptops with extremely tight clearances, and the added thickness may not play nicely in those situations.

Read on for our full review of the ADATA XPG SX8200 M.2 NVMe SSD!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Corsair

Center Your Qi

Wireless charging mouse pads. It’s one of the ideas PC enthusiasts have been asking for since wireless chargers started taking over the smartphone scene. Yet, for years, this seemingly simple idea stymied accessory makers. It turns out, wirelessly charging a moving object is harder than it seems. Finally, the industry seems ready to surmount this challenge, each with their own unique twist.

We’ve seen what Logitech has to offer with PowerPlay and Razer with the FireFly HyperFlux. Today, we look at Corsair’s solution with the Dark Core RGB SE Wired/Wireless Qi Charging Mouse and the MM1000 Qi Wireless Charging Mouse Pad. Is it enough to win the market? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

Specifications

Dark Core RGB SE Wired/Wireless Qi Charging Mouse

  • MSRP: $89.99 (Amazon.com)
  • Programmable Buttons: 9
  • DPI: 16,000 DPI
  • Sensor: PMW3367
  • Sensor Type: Optical
  • Mouse Backlighting: 4 Zone RGB
  • On Board Memory: Yes
  • On-board Memory Profiles: 3
  • Mouse button Type: Omron
  • Connectivity: Wireless, Wired
  • Mouse Button Durability: 50M L/R Click
  • Grip Type: Palm
  • Battery Life: Up to 16hrs with standard lighting or 24hrs with backlighting off
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable Lithium-Polymer
  • Cable: 1.8m Braided Fiber
  • CUE Software: Supported in CUE 2.0
  • Report Rate: 1000Hz
  • Battery Life: Up to 16hrs with standard lighting or 24hrs with backlighting off
  • Battery Type: Rechargeable Lithium-Polymer
  • Weight: 128g
  • Mouse Warranty: Two years

MM1000 Qi Wireless Charging Mouse Pad

  • MSRP: $79.99 (Amazon.com)
  • Surface: Micro-textured Hard Surface
  • Charging Capability: Qi, single-zone
  • LED Indicator Light: Two pattern charging status indicator
  • USB Passthrough: Yes, USB 3.0
  • Dimensions: 260mm x 350mm
  • Also includes:
    • Micro-B wireless charging Qi adapter
    • Micro-B To lightning adapter
    • Micro-B to Type-C adapter

Starting with the MM1000...

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Starting off with the MM1000, we find the standard Corsair black and yellow packaging with a nice product shot on the front. It also features the Dark Core RGB SE mouse, which at the moment is the only mouse in Corsair’s catalog compatible with the MM1000’s unique Qi charging capability without using the included adapters.

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Unlike the other charging options on the market, the MM1000 features a single Qi charging zone, which means it’s capable of charging any number of devices, not just your mouse. Simply placing the device over the circular outline allows it to pick up on the charge. Using the Dark Core RGB, getting it into position is easy and not overly picky like some chargers.

Continue reading our review of the Corsair Dark Core RGB SE and MM1000!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech

A New Kind of Romer-G

Logitech isn’t a company afraid of taking risks. In 2014, they shook up the mechanical keyboard market with their new Romer-G switches, a custom challenger to the popular Cherry MX. The Romer-Gs were nothing if not divisive, however. While some users loved the higher tactile bump offered by the original, others found them to be too soft compared to their MX counterparts.

Today, Logitech presents us with a new take on their Romer-G in the form of a brand new linear switch, found exclusively in the new G513 Carbon Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. The G513 is a refined and upgraded take on last year’s G413. Can this pair of refreshes combine to create something all their own?

Let’s find out.

Specifications and Design

  • MSRP: $149.99 (Amazon.com)
  • Key Switches: Romer-G (Linear or Tactile)
  • Key Durability: 70 million keypresses
  • Actuation distance: 1.5mm
  • Actuation force: 45g
  • Total travel distance: 3.2mm
  • Connection Type: USB 2.0
  • Indicator Lights (LED): 2
  • USB Ports (Built-in): x1, USB 2.0
  • Backlighting: Yes, RGB per key lighting
  • Special Keys
    • Lighting Controls: FN+F5/F6/F7
    • Game Mode: FN+F8
    • Media Controls: FN+F9/F10/F11/F12
    • Volume Controls: FN+ PRTSC/SCRLK/PAUSE
  • Keyboard Dimensions: 132mm (H) x 455mm (W) x 34mm (D)
  • Palm rest Dimensions: 88mm (H) x 445mm (W) x 21.5mm (D)
  • Weight: (w/o cable): 1020g
  • Warranty: 2-year Limited Hardware Warranty

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The G513 comes in both linear and tactile varieties, indicated with a small graphic on the front of the box. The keyboards are otherwise identical, including in the packaging and presentation. We see the usual “beauty shot” on the front of the box, as well as the feature highlights on the back which we’ll go in depth on soon.

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Unpacking it, we see that the keyboard is actually quite simple. There are no extra macro keys or dedicated media buttons, making for a layout that is fairly standard. In fact, the main change comes in the indicator lights, which have been pared down just Caps Lock and Game Mode (Windows Lock) and are also RGB enabled. This space is instead used to highlight the brushed aluminum top plate and glossy “G” branding. 

Continue reading our review of the Logitech G513 Carbon Mechanical Keyboard!

Author:
Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: Samsung

Super Ultrawide

Ultrawide monitors have become an enormous trend in PC gaming over the last 3-4 years. In late 2014 when LG launched the first PC monitors with a 21:9 aspect ratio, I indeed was a skeptic. To me, it seemed like such a radical new aspect ratio would be wrought with game incompatibility, and wouldn't offer much of an advantage over two monitor setups for productivity.

And in the beginning, this was mostly the case. In 2014, games didn't even enable the option for 21:9 aspect ratio resolutions, and those that did, generally resulted in distorted image and FOV settings.

However, gamers wanted these ultrawide aspect ratio displays, and the game support soon followed. Now, ultrawide monitors are a staple of every monitor manufacturer's product lineup.

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What we are looking at today though, is the most intense of all of the ultrawide monitors, the 49" Samsung CHG90. And it just so happens to be one of the first AMD FreeSync 2 displays.

Specifications

Still in the ultrawide category, the CHG90 moves away from the more traditional 21:9 ultrawide aspect ratio to a wider and squatter 32:9. This aspect ratio allows Samsung to maximize the width of the CHG90 while keeping the display short enough not to engulf your entire wall.

Essentially, you can look at this display as two 27" monitors sitting side-by-side, without the pesky bezel in the middle. Similarly, the resolution of the CHG90 matches the effective resolution of two 1080p monitors sitting next to each other, with a total resolution of 3840x1080.

To achieve such a big display size in a still relatively usable form factor, the CHG90 display features a 1800R curvature. This figure refers to the measurement of the resulting radius that the display would make if it continued to make a full circle. For example, a 3000R display would have less of a curve than a 1800R display.

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The curve on the CHG90 isn't quite like any other display we've seen, however. Due to the immense size of the display, the entire panel isn't curved. The curve stops about 6 inches from the edge of either side of the screen.

Continue reading our review of the Samsung C49HG90 Ultrawide FreeSync 2 monitor!

Author:
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Features

Introduction

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The Corsair RMx Series currently includes five models: 1000W, 850W, 750W, 650W and 550W. And the 850W model is available in either standard black or special white. The RMx series is very similar to Corsair’s RMi series but with the advantage of lower cost due eliminating the digital Corsair Link interface and staying with 80 Plus Gold level efficiency. Like previous versions, all of the RMx Series power supplies are designed by Corsair and built by Channel Well Technologies (CWT). We will be taking a detailed look at the RM850x PSU (standard black) in this review.

The RMx Series power supplies are equipped with fully modular cables and optimized for very quiet operation. RMx Series power supplies incorporate Zero RPM Fan Mode, which means the fan does not start spinning until the power supply reaches a moderate load. The cooling fan is designed to deliver low noise and high static pressure.

The Corsair RMx Series is built with high-quality components, including all Japanese made electrolytic capacitors, and Corsair guarantees these PSUs to deliver clean, stable, continuous power, at ambient temperatures up to 50°C. And last but not least, the RMx series comes backed by a 10-year warranty.

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Corsair RM850x PSU Features summary:

•    850W continuous DC output (up to 50°C)
•    10-Year Warranty and Comprehensive Customer Support
•    80 PLUS Gold certified, at least 90% efficiency under 50% load
•    Fully modular cables for easy installation
•    Flat ribbon-style, low profile cables help optimize airflow
•    Zero RPM Fan Mode for silent operation up to 40% load
•    Quiet NR135L fan for long life and quiet operation
•    High quality components including all Japanese electrolytic capacitors
•    Active Power Factor correction (0.99) with Universal AC input
•    Safety Protections : OCP, OVP, UVP, SCP, OTP, and OPP
•    MSRP for the RM850x (black): $159.99 USD

 

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Here is what Corsair has to say about the RMx Series:

Corsair RMx series power supplies give you extremely tight voltage control, quiet operation, Gold-certified efficiency, and a fully modular cables set. Built with all Japanese 105°C capacitors, they’re a great choice for high performance PCs where reliability is essential!

80 PLUS Gold efficiency reduces operating cost and excess heat, and Zero RPM fan mode ensures virtual silence at low and medium loads. And the fully modular DC cables make builds and upgrades easy, with clean, great-looking results.”

Please continue reading our review of the Corsair RM850x PSU!!!

Author:
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

I Have a Need, a Need for Download Speed

Thanks to Wendell from Level1Techs for his all of his help on this project and pointing us in the right direction!

A few years ago, we were fortunate enough to get a fiber internet connection installed at the PC Perspective office. Capable of 1Gbps download speeds and about 250Mbps upload, we were excited at the possibilities that laid ahead.

However, when you have access to a very fast internet connection, you begin to notice that the bottleneck has shifted from your connection to the servers on the other side of the content delivery networks (CDNs) that power the internet. While these CDNs have very fast links to the internet, they generally limit bandwidth so that there is more speed to go around to multiple people at the same time.

A look back at what once was

One of the services that we found would max out our connection was Steam. Since we download a lot of PC games at the office, it was a nice benefit to have an internet connection as fast as our NICs could handle, and that the Steam CDNs would serve us at our maximum potential. In fact, the bottleneck shifted over to storage performance, as the random writing nature of Steam thrashed our SSDs at the time.

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By no stretch of the imagination is 60MB/s slow.. but what happened to our 100MB/s!

Unfortunately, this has ceased to remain the case. At some point, Steam downloads started getting slower on our same internet connection. Not only did storage utilization during a Steam download start to increase, but also CPU usage, pointing to a potential change in how Steam distributed their data. While downloads on our high-end systems fell to around 50-60MB/s, systems with less CPU horsepower started to see speeds fall to 20-30MB/s. All hope was lost for fast game downloads.. or was it?

Recently, Wendell from Level1Techs mentioned on Twitter that they were running a local Steam caching server on their network with great success. After some guidance from Wendell, we decided to tackle this project and see if it would help our specific scenario.

Continue reading our experiences setting up a Steam cache!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Corsair

Bringing PC Gaming to the Couch

PC gaming lives at the cutting edge, but let’s face it, sometimes it’s nice to kick back on the couch to enjoy a game. Not long ago, we were stuck with controllers or draping long wires across our floors, but as technology has advanced, those compromises are becoming a thing of the past. Today, we’re looking at the latest combo from Corsair with the K63 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and their custom-fit Lapboard.

Are the days of balancing keyboards on our legs and mousing from couch cushions finally behind us? Let’s find out.

Specifications

Lapboard:

  • Keyboard Compatibility: Corsair K63 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard
  • Cushion: Full length memory foam
  • Mouse Pad: Soft surface, replaceable
  • Dimensions (Mouse Pad): 10.44” (L) x 8.26” (W) x 0.05” (H)
  • Dimensions (Lapboard): 26.4” (L) x 10.9” (W) x 2.1” (H)
  • Accessories: x2 spare retention clips, x2 spare retention hooks
  • Weight: 4.07lbs (without keyboard)
  • Warranty: Two years

K63 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard:

  • Key Switches: Cherry MX Red
  • Key Lifespan: 50 Million Actuations
  • Layout: Tenkeyless, 87 Keys
  • Wired Connectivity: USB 3.0 or USB 3.1 Type-A
  • Wireless Connectivity: Ultra-fast 1ms 2.4GHz or Bluetooth® 4.2 + LE
  • Battery: Lithium Ion (Battery Charging Charges via USB to computer)
  • Battery Life: Up to 15 hours at normal brightness, 25 hours (low brightness), 75 hours no backlighting
  • Report Rate: 1000Hz
  • Keyboard Rollover: Full Key (NKRO) with 100% Anti-Ghosting
  • Illumination: Ice Blue LED
  • Media Controls: Yes, Dedicated
  • Macro Keys: No
  • USB Pass-through: No
  • Adjustable Height: Yes
  • Weight: 2.4lbs (1.09kg)
  • Warranty: Two years

Corsair Gaming K63 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

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Starting with the keyboard, the K63 comes in the traditional black and yellow packaging of Corsair products. The highlight here is definitely the wireless connectivity with rapid 1ms response time. We also see the usual callout to Cherry MX style keys, which are well known for their high quality standard. Interestingly, the K63 Wireless is only available in linear-style Cherry MX Red at this time.

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Taking it out of the box, it’s clear that Corsair hasn’t skimped on materials compared to their other keyboards. The K63 is remarkably similar to the larger, wired K68 we reviewed here, minus the RGB backlighting, dust, and spill resistance. Apart from being wireless, this variant is also tenkeyless, which means it lacks the full number pad. As a result, we also find some of our media controls shifted to the left side of the board. It’s heavy, coming in at just under two-and-a-half pounds and offers very little flex thanks to the steel mounting plate under the keys.

Continue reading our review of the Corsair K63 Wireless Keyboard and Lapboard!

Manufacturer: BitFenix

Introduction and First Impressions

The Portal isn't a new case by any means, but it's still a unique mini-ITX offering from BitFenix that blends an unusual design with an easy build process thanks to a sliding "dual-frame" design for unfettered component access. It offers a compact footprint while still supporting a full-length graphics card, and the aluminum exterior provides light weight and a high-end appearance.

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Our review sample includes a top window to showcase the graphics card, and between the white finish and black trim and stand this case really stands out. How well did it perform? Read on to find out!


Specifications

  • Chassis Type: ITX Chassis
  • Colors: Black or White
  • Materials: Aluminum, SECC Steel, ABS, Transparent acrylic
  • Compatibility:
    • Motherboard: Mini-ITX
    • CPU Cooler: Up to 125mm Height
    • Graphic Card Length: Up to 300mm
    • Power Supply: SFX Form Factor
  • Storage Capacity: 
    • 3.5" HDD x2
    • 2.5" HDD 1+2
  • Cooling Capacity
    • (Front) 120mm x 1 (Included)
    • (Rear) 80mm x 1 (Included)
    • Radiator Capacity (Front): Up to 120mm
  • Front I/O ports: USB 3.0 x2, 3.5 mm Audio
  • Dimensions with stand (WxHxD): 247 x 395 x 411 mm (9.72 x 15.55 x 16.18 inches)
  • Weight 5.81 kg (12.81 lbs)

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The Portal doesn't look like your typical mini-tower mITX case, but there is just enough room for a full system inside.

Continue reading our review of the BitFenix Portal mini-ITX enclosure!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Onyx

Overview

E Ink is one of those initially promising technologies that ultimately has lived a bit of a disappointing life. After the introduction of the original E-reader devices such as the Amazon Kindle, we were promised a future of all signage being replaced with readable, but electronically controllable E Ink displays. Even color E Ink displays teased us with very limited product rollouts.

However, E Ink has not been a magical cure-all. Lower demand and more difficult production methods mean that the cost of these displays remains much higher than other commodity technologies like LCD. Additionally, even though E Ink has substantially improved from the first E Ink displays, refreshing the display remains a slow process and a deal breaker for applications such as notebooks and tablets.

Or does it? For someone who spends a lot of time looking at LCDs all day, the idea of E-Ink still very much appeals to me. This led me to ask myself some questions earlier this year. Would I be willing to accept the trade-offs of E Ink for a solution to eyestrain? Are E Ink displays any better than when I lasted used one? Are there even any modern E Ink devices besides the Kindle?

That research brought me to what we are taking a look at today, the Onyx Boox Max 2, a 13.3" E-Ink tablet running Android 6.0. 

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Continue reading our review of the Onyx Boox 2 E Ink Tablet!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Intel

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

Over the past couple of days, we saw some rumors and e-tailer appearances of the Intel SSD 905P. Essentially an incremental upgrade to the 900P, with a few notable differences. Specs see a slight bump across the board, as do capacities, but the most striking difference is Intel’s apparent choice to move forward with the blue-LED enabled design seen in a press deck slide that began circulating last year:

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That upper right design seemed pretty cool at the time, and I never thought we would see it materialize, but less than 24 hours ago this arrived at the office:

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Note: The color is user adjustable - we just don't have the software for it yet.

*edit* colors are configurable via command line, using the most recent SSD toolbox app. The possible colors are limited (literally red/green/blue/off - that's it), but I've confirmed that the setting does persist after reboot / power cycling / changing systems. This is a welcome change over other RGB-enabled components that require software to always be installed to control (or even turn off) lighting. Here's a look at the other two colors:

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*end edit*

Well now that it’s here, let’s see what it can do!

Read on for our full review of the Intel SSD 905P 960GB!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Microsoft
Tagged:

Overview

2015 seems to have been a turning point for Microsoft's Surface hardware initiative. Despite the failure of Windows RT and the associated Surface RT, the Intel-powered Surface was beginning to gain some real traction and notoriety with the Surface Pro 3 in late 2014, but was still fairly niche.

In October of 2015, Microsoft signaled that they were taking this fledgling Surface thing seriously with the announcement of their second Surface device, the Surface Book. Fitting into a more traditional notebook-style form factor rather than the Surface's approach to the idea of a 2-in-1 design, the Surface Book introduced several radical design elements, both to Microsoft and the entire PC ecosystem at large.

The unique "dynamic fulcrum" hinge design, true detachable discrete graphics on a 2-in-1 device, and almost 10-hour battery life made the Surface Book stand out in the PC market.

But the original Surface Book wasn't without its faults. Hardware reliability became an issue as early adopters started to use these computers for extended amounts of time, and the lackluster of the available GPU option in the Surface Base mitigated some of the intended utility of the Surface Book Ecosystem.

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However, this didn't stop Microsoft from announcing a follow-up in Late 2017, the Surface Book 2. The Surface Book 2 aimed to address some of the hardware issues with the first generation while providing a more powerful unit and introducing a new 15" display option.

On my continued search for a new personal notebook, I decided to purchase a Surface Book 2 13.5" unit for evaluation. 

Continue reading our review of the Surface Book 2!

Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Intel

2018: A banner year

Intel has a long history of generating tremendous amounts of revenue and income. This latest quarter is no exception. Intel has announced record Q1 revenues for this year and they look to continue that trend throughout 2018. AMD released their very positive results yesterday, but their finances are dwarfed by what Intel has brought to market. The company had revenue of $16.1 billion with a net income of $4.5 billion. Compare this to AMD’s $1.625B revenue and $81M net income we see that the massive gulf between these two companies will not be bridged anytime soon with either Intel falling or AMD gaining.

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Intel has put its money to good use with a wide variety of products that stretch between the PC market and datacenters. While their low power and ultra-mobile strategies have been scaled back and cancelled in some cases, their core markets are unaffected and they continue to make money hand over fist. The company has always been fundamentally sound in terms of finances and they do not typically spend money recklessly. They continue to feature market leading IPC with their product lines and can address multiple markets with the x86 products they have.

Click here to continue reading about Intel's Q1 results!