Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Sennheiser

Sennheiser’s New Flagship Gaming Headset

Sennheiser is one of the most respected names in the audio world and especially with headphone users. Almost five years ago, they released the GAME ONE headset and set a new high water mark for PC gaming audio. In late 2016, the company began reshaping its gaming line with a new “GSP” series, first with the entry-level GSP 300, which is still one of the best headsets you can buy for under $90. This year, they’re taking on the other end of the spectrum and releasing a new gaming flagship: the GSP 600. With an MSRP of $249, it doesn’t come cheap, but is easily one of the best headsets in its class.

Specifications

  • MSRP: $249.99
  • Color: Black
  • Wearing Style: Headband
  • Impedance: 28 Ohms
  • Connector: 2 x 3.5 mm (3-pole connectors) 1 x 3.5 mm (4-pole connectors), 2.5mm connection to headset
  • Frequency Response (Microphone): 10–18,000 Hz
  • Frequency Response (Headphones): 10–30,000 Hz
  • Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 112 dB SPL @ 1 kHz, 1V RMS
  • Ear Coupling: Over-Ear
  • Cable Length: 2.5 m PC cable / 1.5 m Console cable
  • Transducer Principle: Dynamic, Closed
  • Pick-up Pattern: Bi-directional ECM
  • Microphone Sensitivity: -47 dBV/PA
  • Weight: 395g
  • Warranty: Two-year

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Starting with packaging, the GSP arrives in a simple, elegant box. I appreciate that it’s not covered in gamer-marketing. The name Sennheiser carries esteem and respectability that would be diminished by slathering the box with over-stated logos and aggressive art. The packaging is in line with many of Sennheiser’s consumer audiophile headsets, which is in keeping with what they’re trying to do here.

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Inside the box is the headset itself and two detachable cables, as well as the usual warranty card and basic instruction manual.  The GSP uses an analog stereo connection, so there’s no built-in USB sound card here. Each cable is braided in nylon fiber and connects to the headset with a 2.5mm jack. The longer cable of the two is 2.5m and ends in a Y-splitter with separate headphone and mic connectors, clearly meant for use with PC. The shorter cable is only 1.5m and ends in a 4-pole connection, suitable for use with consoles.

Continue reading our review of the Sennheiser GSP 600!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Flexispot

Get Up, Stand Up

If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you spend a portion of your day sitting at a desk. Spending too long sitting at a computer is bad for you. It increases your risk of heart disease, deep vein thrombosis, back problems, and a laundry list of other health issues. But what do you do when your job demands your work at a computer all day?

We’re breaking from our usual fare today to bring you something a little different from our friends at Flexispot with the M3B 47” standing desk riser. Using the M3B, or one of Flexispot’s variants to match the size and style of your desk, you’ll easily be able to shift your workstation to a stand. After a few months at my office desk, I’m here to tell you might want to consider it even if you’re not worried about your health.

Specifications

  • MSRP: $199 - 349 (Size dependent - M3B: $349)
  • Smooth adjustment with 12 height settings
  • Deeper desktop surface & wide keyboard tray
  • Straight up & down movement optimizing for compact offices
  • Smart desktop with built-in tablet integration
  • Quality assured by cycling test of 6,000 height adjustments
  • Simple one-step assembly
  • Compatible with ergonomic monitor mounts
  • Available in three size options and two colors (black or white)
  • Dimensions: 23.2 x 47 x 19.7 in (M3B)
  • Size: 47" (M3B - size variable)
  • Loading Capacity: 44 lbs (M3B)
  • Height Adjustment: 5.9-19.6 inch (M3B)
  • Material: Fiberboard & steel
  • Weight: 54.01 lbs (M3B)

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Starting with packaging, the M3B arrives in a monster of a box. It’s heavy and awkward to carry with the 47” model, coming in at over 54 lbs and greater than four feet long boxed, so I’d recommend getting some help moving it to your install location. Packaging is pretty basic here.

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Continue reading our review of the Flexispot M3B Standing Desk Riser!

Author:
Manufacturer: Seasonic

Introduction and Features

Introduction

It’s been almost two years since we first looked at Seasonic’s top of the line PRIME 750W Titanium power supply. Since then Seasonic has tweaked the design, increased the warranty to 12-years, and added “Ultra” to the name. So what else has changed? Is the PRIME Ultra Titanium still one of the best power supplies money can buy?

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Sea Sonic Electronics Co., Ltd has been designing and building PC power supplies since 1981 and they are one of the most highly respected manufacturers in the world. Not only do they market power supplies under their own Seasonic name but they are the OEM for numerous other big-name brands.

Seasonic’s PRIME Ultra lineup was introduced last year with the Titanium Ultra Series, which currently includes four models: 1000W, 850W, 750W, and 650W. Additional PRIME models with both Platinum and Gold efficiency certifications as well as a fanless model are also available.

All of the PRIME Ultra Titanium Series PSUs come with all modular cables and are certified to comply with the 80 Plus Titanium efficiency criteria; the highest available. The power supplies are designed to deliver extremely tight voltage regulation on the three primary rails (+3.3V, +5V and +12V) and they provide superior AC ripple and noise suppression. Add in an upgraded super-quiet 135mm cooling fan with a Fluid Dynamic Bearing and a 12-year warranty, and you have the formula for an outstanding PC power supply.

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Seasonic PRIME Ultra Titanium Series PSU Key Features:

•    1000W, 850W, 750W or 650W continuous DC output
•    Ultra-high efficiency, 80 PLUS Titanium 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 (under 20 mV)
•    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 $179.99 USD

Please continue reading our review of the PRIME Ultra 750W Titanium PSU!!!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: HyperX

Built Like a Tank

HyperX, the gaming division of Kingston, entered the mechanical keyboard market in 2016 with the Alloy FPS - which this reviewer found to be well constructed and a great value relative to the market when I reviewed both versions last year. Enter the Alloy Elite, an impressive-looking keyboard that boasts a high level of build quality and the option of full RGB lighting (a single color variant is also available). Does the Elite live up to its name in everyday use? I will share my findings with the RGB version reviewed here.

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Features (from HyperX):

  • Unique light bar and dynamic lighting effects
  • Solid steel frame
  • CHERRY® MX mechanical keyswitches
  • Dedicated media buttons and large volume wheel
  • Quick access buttons for brightness, lighting effects and Game Mode
  • Conveniently connect devices via USB 2.0 pass-through
  • 100% Anti-ghosting and N-Key Rollover functionality
  • Comfortable, detachable wrist rest with soft-touch coating
  • Additional titanium-colored textured keycaps and HyperX keycap removal tool

Pricing and Availability:

First a quick look at packaging and included accessories:

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Continue reading our review of the HyperX Alloy Elite RGB mechanical keyboard!

Author:
Subject: Displays
Manufacturer: BenQ

BenQ EW3270U Review

The HDR craze continues to heat up in the PC display market, and while some manufacturers are aiming at the high end of performance and price, BenQ is targeting a much more attainable price point with the recent launch of the EW3270U, a 32-inch 4K HDR display.

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The EW3270U touts support for HDR, FreeSync, and both DCI-P3 (95 percent coverage) and sRGB (100 percent) but its relatively low price of $699 means that buyers can expect some compromises. We tested the EW3270U to find out if its performance and limitations were worth the price, and discovered a display with very good color accuracy that may be just what mid-range 4K buyers are looking for.

Read on for our full review and impressions!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech

HERO Power

When it comes to gaming mice, Logitech has never been afraid to take risks and innovate. With PixArt, they created one of the most popular optical sensors in the industry with the PMW3366, which is renowned for its excellent tracking. In fact, the sensor is still be adopted by Logitech’s competitors today, often rebranded with custom firmware and fancy in-house names.

Logitech wasn’t content to rest on their laurels and has continued to push boundaries, introducing their new LIGHTSPEED wireless technology and the HERO sensor which is poised to lead the way into the next generation of gaming mice.

Today, we’re looking at the newest and cheapest way to try this new tech for yourself with the Logitech G305 Wireless Gaming Mouse. It promises performance to rival the best wired mice on the market and battery life between 250 hours and nine months, all for $59.99. Is there a catch? Let’s find out in our full review.

Specifications and Design

  • MSRP: $59.99 (Amazon.com)
  • Sensor: HERO
  • Resolution: 100-12,000 DPI
  • Max Acceleration: > 40G
  • Max. Speed: > 400 IPS
  • USB Data Format: 16 bits/axis
  • USB Report Rate: 1000Hz (1ms)
  • Wireless Technology: LIGHTSPEED (Logitech G Custom 2.4GHz)
  • Microprocessor: 32-bit ARM
  • Battery Life:
    • Performance mode: 250 hours (non-stop gaming, single AA battery)
    • Endurance mode: 9 months (standard usage, single AA battery)
  • Durability:
    • Main Buttons: 10-million clicks with precision mechanical button tensioning
    • Feet: > 250-km range
  • Weight: 3.42oz, 99g (with 1AA battery inserted)
  • Warranty: 2-year limited hardware warranty

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As always, we begin with packaging. It’s a simple affair this time around with a small blue box showcasing the body of the mouse as well as the usual feature callouts on the back.

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Continue reading our review of the Logitech G305 Lightspeed wireless gaming mouse!

Author:
Manufacturer: ASUS

A long time coming

To say that the ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ has been a long time coming is a bit of an understatement. In the computer hardware world where we are generally lucky to know about a product for 6-months, the PG27UQ is a product that has been around in some form or another for at least 18 months.

Originally demonstrated at CES 2017, the ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ debuted alongside the Acer Predator X27 as the world's first G-SYNC displays supporting HDR. With promised brightness levels of 1000 nits, G-SYNC HDR was a surprising and aggressive announcement considering that HDR was just starting to pick up steam on TVs, and was unheard of for PC monitors. On top of the HDR support, these monitors were the first announced displays sporting a 144Hz refresh rate at 4K, due to their DisplayPort 1.4 connections.

However, delays lead to the PG27UQ being displayed yet again at CES this year, with a promised release date of Q1 2018. Even more slippages in release lead us to today, where the ASUS PG27UQ is available for pre-order for a staggering $2,000 and set to ship at some point this month.

In some ways, the launch of the PG27UQ very much mirrors the launch of the original G-SYNC display, the ROG Swift PG278Q. Both displays represented the launch of an oft waited technology, in a 27" form factor, and were seen as extremely expensive at their time of release.

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Finally, we have our hands on a production model of the ASUS PG27UQ, the first monitor to support G-SYNC HDR, as well as 144Hz refresh rate at 4K. Can a PC monitor really be worth a $2,000 price tag? 

Continue reading our review of the ASUS ROG PG27UQ G-SYNC HDR Monitor!

Manufacturer: SilverStone

Introduction and Case Exterior

The SilverStone Redline Series RL07 offers a stylish exterior with an interesting front panel design and a tempered glass side panel, and the interior is all business with a typically open layout for what should be an easy build. The solid front panel and quiet 140 mm rear exhaust fan suggest low noise levels, but how cool does this case keep the components in our test setup? We will explore both the build process and performance in this review.

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"SilverStone’s Redline RL07 is a tower chassis with spectacular front panel design mated to a functional and practical internal structure. It has audacious, one of a kind asymmetrical styling that pays homage to earlier aggressive Redline series chassis launched in 2012 but elevates with details often only available on cases costing much more. On the inside, the RL07 has many modern features such as power supply / drive shroud, convenient tool-less drive trays, quick access dust filter and smart backside cable routing design. So it not only has highly flexible space for installing all popular core components, it also has incredible support for a myriad of cooling configurations. There are four total 120 / 140mm fan slots around the case with maximum radiator support of up to 360mm to meet the needs of PC enthusiasts of all levels."

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Specifications:

  • Material: Steel front panel, steel body, tempered glass side panel
  • Motherboard: ATX ( up to 12" x 11") , Micro-ATX
  • Expansion slots: 7
  • Drive bays: 3.5" x3 (compatible with 2.5"), 2.5" x3
  • Cooling system:
    • Front: 3x 120 / 140mm fan slot
    • Rear: 1x 120 / 140mm fan slot (1x 140mm exhaust PWM fan included)
  • Radiator support:
    • Front: 120mm x2, 240mm / 280mm / 360mm x1
    • Rear: 120mm / 140mm x1
  • Compatibility:
    • CPU cooler: Up to 167mm
    • Graphics card: Compatible up to 16.3" (415 mm) length, 6.57" (167 mm) width
    • Power supply: ATX, up to 190 mm length
  • Front I/O ports: USB 2.0 x2, USB 3.0 x2, 3.5 mm audio, mic
  • Dimensions (WxHxD): 226 x 488 x 465 mm (8.9 x 19.21 x 18.31 inches)
  • Weight: 8.2 kg

First Impressions

When viewed from the front the RL07 looks pretty conventional, with a solid front panel that is common to most mid-tower cases these days (other than the high-airflow models of course), punctuated by the red line down the middle that frames the split design when viewed off-angle.

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Continue reading our review of the SilverStone Redline Series RL07!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

The X299 Designare EX motherboard is GIGiABYTE's latest flagship product offering support for Intel's HEDT chipset and processor line. With it's late entry into the fray, GIGABYTE was able to tweak its layout and feature set to make the Designare board a more appealing product over previously introduced boards. Built around the Intel X299 chlipset, the board supports the Intel LGA2066 processor line, including the Skylake-X and Kaby Lake-X processors, with support for Quad-Channel DDR4 memory running at a 2667MHz speed. The X299 Designare EX can be found in retail with an MRSP of around $500.00.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

GIGABYTE integrated the following features into the X299 Designare EX motherboard: eight SATA III 6Gbps ports; three M.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 32Gbps capable ports with Intel Optane support built-in; dual Intel Gigabit RJ-45 ports - Intel I219-V Gigabit and Intel I211 controllers; an Intel 8265 802.11ac WiFi controller; five PCI-Express x16 slots; Realtek® ALC1220 8-Channel audio subsystem; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support. GIGABYTE also integrated there steel-based armor slots for the board's PCIe and memory slots, giving them added strength and durability.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

For added strength, rigidity, and underside protection, GIGABYTE integrated a metal armor under plate onto the board's underside much like that seen on ASUS' TUF board line. The under plate also acts as a secondary heat dissipation path. Further, GIGABYTE integrated a metal rear I/O Shield over the rear panel components, adding out of the box protection for those normal exposed ports.

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

To power the board, GIGABYTE integrated integrated a 13-phase digital power delivery system into the X299 Designare EX's design. The digital power system was designed with IR digital power controllers and PowIRstage ICs, Server Level Chokes, and Durable Black capacitors.

Continue reading our preview of the GIGABYTE X299 Designare EX motherboard!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Corsair

Wire Free with RGB

Corsair has been on a roll lately. We’ve looked at a number of their peripherals here at PC Perspective and have consistently found them to be well-built, performance accessories for your gaming rig. Today we’re leaving the keyboards and mice behind to take a look at a different, more divisive product category: the gaming headset. Corsair’s Void Pro RGB Wireless looks great on the surface but does it have the sound and comfort to match? Let’s take a closer look and find out.

Specifications and Design

  • MSRP: $99.99 (Amazon.com)
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Wireless Range: Up to 40 feet (12m)
  • Surround Sound: Virtual 7.1 Dolby Headphone
  • Headphone Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20 kHz
  • Headphone Impedance: 32 Ohms @ 1 kHz
  • Headphone Drivers Drivers: 50mm
  • Headphone Connector: USB Dongle
  • Battery Life: Up to 16 hours
  • Microphone Type: Unidirectional noise cancelling
  • Microphone Impedance: 2.0k Ohms
  • Microphone Frequency Response: 100Hz to 10kHz
  • Microphone Sensitivity: -38dB (+/-3dB)
  • Lighting: RGB
  • Audio CUE Software: YES
  • Warranty: Two years

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As always, we begin with packaging. Corsair always does a good job here. We find the usual black and yellow trim with the shard background on the face, as well as our key feature callouts. You can’t see it well on the box since they went with a black and white aesthetic but both the “sails” logo and the trim on the microphone’s boom arm are illuminated, though only the former is RGB. Inside the box, we find the headset well packaged without any annoying tie-downs.

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Continue reading our review of the Corsair Void Pro RGB Wireless headset!

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!