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!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech

The Creative Craft

The Logitech Craft is an object lesson in not judging a book by its cover. By all appearances, it’s seems to be a standard chiclet keyboard with a volume wheel. Nothing impressive, though, sure, it looks sleek. For those willing to look just as little bit closer, you’ll find one of the most versatile keyboards on the market today. That “volume wheel” is more than meets the eye and has the potential to provide a more efficient workflow for creatives and business professionals alike.

Specifications and Design

  • MSRP: $199.99 (Amazon.com)
  • Dimensions (HxWxD): 32 mm x 430 mm x 149 mm
  • Connectivity: Logitech Unifying 2.4GHz wireless technology, USB 2.0, Bluetooth Low Energy technology
  • Program Compatibility:
    • Microsoft Word®, Microsoft PowerPoint®, Microsoft Excel® 2010, 2013 and 2016 - Windows only
    • Adobe® Photoshop® CC, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom® Classic CC, Adobe® Illustrator®CC, Adobe® Premiere® Pro CC 2017 and above – Windows and Mac, Adobe Reader DC
    • VLC Media Player - Windows
  • Preview, Quicktime, Safari® - Mac
  • Spotify™ - Windows and Mac
  • Additional Features:
    • 10m wireless range
  • Wireless encryption
  • On/Off power switch
  • 3 connection indicator lights
  • Caps lock indicator light
  • Battery indicator light
  • Rechargeable with USB type C
  • Compatible with Logitech Flow enabled mice
  • Weight: 960g
  • Warranty: 1-Year Limited Hardware Warranty

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Beginning with packaging, the Craft ships in a nice black box with a nice render of the keyboard on the front. It’s simple and elegant, matching the keyboard itself. Inside you’ll find the keyboard is wrapped in an adhesive dust-protective film. Underneath, we have the USB Type-C cable, 2.4GHz wireless USB insert, and our documentation.

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Taking it out of the box, we find what appears to be a standard 104-key chiclet keyboard with a large metal bar on the top. The Craft is slightly more compact than a traditional keyboard coming in at just under 17-inches wide. The keyboard is thin but surprisingly heavy with a solid 2.1 pounds to keep it stationary on your desk. Much of this seems due to the bar on the top; however, the chassis is also fairly rigid and angled to diminish any flex in normal use.

Continue reading our review of the Logitech CRAFT keyboard!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction, Specifications and Packaging

Introduction:

We have been overdue for a Samsung NVMe SSD refresh, and with the launch of their 860 PRO and EVO back in January, folks have been itching for the 970's to come out. The 950 and 960 (PRO) lines were separated by about a year, but we are going on 18 months since the most recent 960 EVO launch. Samsung could afford to wait a bit longer since the 960 line already offered outstanding performance that remained unmatched at the top of our performance charts for a very long time. Recently, drives like the WD Black have started catching up, so it is naturally time for Samsung to keep the competition on their toes:

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Today we will look at most of the Samsung 970 PRO and EVO lineup. We have a bit of a capacity spread for the EVO, and a single PRO. Samples are hard to come by so far since Samsung opted to launch both lines at the same time, but we tried to get the more common capacities represented. EVO 2TB and PRO 1TB data will have to come at a later date.

Specifications:

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Specs come in at just slightly higher than the 960 lines, with some welcome additions like OPAL and encrypted drive (IEEE1667) support, the latter being suggested but never making it into the 960 products. Another welcome addition is that the 970 EVO now carries a 5-year warranty (up from 3).

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The 970 EVO includes 'Intelligent TurboWrite', which was introduced with the 960 line. This setup maintains a static SLC area and an additional 'Intelligent' cache that exists if sufficient free space is available in the TLC area.

Packaging:

Packaging is in line with the previous 960 series parts. Nice packaging. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

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Read on for our full review of the Samsung 970 PRO and EVO!

Author:
Manufacturer: FSP Group USA Corp.

Introduction and Features

Introduction

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The latest Hydro PTM power supply lineup sits right in the middle of FSP’s top-tier Premium Series and currently includes three models: 750W, 650W, and 550W. FSP Group Inc. has been designing and building PC power supplies under their own brand since 2003 and they are the OEM for many other big name brands. The three standard Hydro PTM power supplies are not water-cooled as the Hydro name might imply, but the FSP Hydro PTM+ 1200W PSU is. We will be taking a detailed look at the PTM 650W Platinum model in this review.

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FSP designed the Hydro PTM Series to operate cool and quiet thanks to Platinum level efficiency and a high-quality 135mm FDB (Fluid Dynamic Bearing) fan. The units feature all modular cables and are designed to deliver tight voltage regulation with excellent AC ripple and noise suppression. All Hydro PTM Series power supplies incorporate high-grade components like all Japanese made electrolytic capacitors and come with changeable side stickers (Blue, Red, or Green) and they are backed by a 10-year warranty!

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FSP Hydro PTM Series PSU Key Features:

•    550W, 650W or 750W continuous DC output @ 50°C
•    High efficiency, 80 PLUS Platinum certified =92%
•    Complies with newest ATX12V v2.4 & EPS12 v2.92 standards
•    100% Japanese made electrolytic capacitors
•    Quiet 135mm Fluid Dynamic Bearing fan
•    Powerful single +12V rail design
•    Fully modular with flat ribbon-style cables
•    Multiple 6+2 pin PCI-E connectors and VR ready
•    Protections: OVP, UVP, OCP, OPP, SCP and OTP
•    10-Year Manufacturer’s warranty
•    MSRP: $124.99 USD

 

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Here is what FSP has to say about the Hydro PTM 650W PSU:

FSP’s Hydro PTM power supply series features 80 Plus Platinum rated efficiency and are fully modular. They are an excellent choice for high-performance PCs, thanks to the fluid dynamic bearing (FDB) fan and Japanese electrolytic capacitors. These highly reliable power supplies are perfect for gaming enthusiasts and overclockers.

Please continue reading our review of the FSP Hydro PTM 650W PSU!!!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Corsair
Tagged: RGB, platinum, K95, corsair

The Premiere Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

Corsair has long been the company to beat in the world of RGB mechanical gaming keyboards. With the K95 RGB Platinum, they present their flagship: an oversize, fully-programmable, light show of a board with the kind of rapid response competitive gamers crave. But for $199, it’s a steep asking price. Is it worth such a high MSRP? Let’s find out.

Specifications and Design

  • MSRP: $199.99 ($172.99 on Amazon at time of writing)
  • Key Switches: Cherry MX RGB Speed (also available in Cherry MX Brown)
  • Actuation Force: 45g
  • Actuation Distance: 1.2mm (standard 2.0mm)
  • Travel Distance: 3.4mm (standard 4.0mm)
  • Lifespan: 50M
  • Keyboard Backlighting: RGB
  • Macro Keys: 6 dedicated G-keys
  • Report Rate: Up to 1ms
  • Matrix: 100% anti-ghosting with full key rollover on USB
  • On-board Memory: Yes
  • Media Keys: Six dedicated multimedia keys, incl. Volume Up/Down roller
  • Wrist Rest: Full length, detachable, dual-sided with soft touch finish
  • Cable Type: Braided Fiber
  • Dimensions: 465mm x 171mm x 36mm
  • Weight: 1.324kg
  • Warranty: Two years

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The K95 RGB Platinum comes in nice packaging in the standard Corsair black and yellow. We have a nice profile shot of the keyboard on the front and the features highlighted on the back. It’s also one of the few cases where the marketing shots really undersell the keyboard. It looks much better in person, especially in low light.

Inside, the keyboard comes in a dust-preventative plastic sleeve with the wrist rest, ten replacement keycaps (QWER, ASDF, WD), and keycap puller under the keyboard itself.

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Taking a closer look at the keyboard, the first thing that stands out is just how refined it is compared to the previous K95s or popular K70 variants. Compared to the K68 we looked at previously, the K95 is a massive upgrade, featuring a full aluminum top plate, aluminum volume roller, a glossy illuminated Corsair sails logo, and a dedicated control area for profile switching, brightness control, and Windows Lock. It also features a gorgeous LED light bar along the top rim, a USB 3.0 pass-through, and six programmable macro keys along the left side.

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Continue reading our review of the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum keyboard!!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

A Year Later

Despite what might be considered an overall slump in enthusiast PC building due to record low GPU availability and sky-high memory prices, 2017 was one of the most exciting and competitive years in recent history when it comes to CPU innovation. On the desktop side alone, we saw the launch of AMD's new Zen CPU architecture with the Ryzen 1000 series of parts starting last March; we also saw new HEDT platforms from both Intel and AMD, and Intel's first 6-core mainstream CPUs.

Although the timeline doesn't quite work out for Ryzen to have affected the engineering-side of Intel's decision to release a 6-core desktop processor, it's evident AMD's pressure changed Intel's pricing and release schedule.

With little desktop competition, it's likely that the i7-8700K would have been a more expensive part, and released later. It's likely that Coffee Lake would have seen a full stack product launch in early 2018, as opposed to the staggered launch we experienced where only one compatible chipset and a subset of CPUs were available for months.

AMD and Ryzen have put significant pressure on Intel to remain competitive, which is good for the industry as a whole.

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We're now at just over a year since AMD's first Ryzen processor releases, and looking at the first appearance of the codename Pinnacle Ridge CPUs. Launching today are the Ryzen 7 2700X and 2700, and the Ryzen 5 2600x and 2600 processors. Can AMD keep moving the needle forward in the CPU space? Let's take a look.

Continuing reading our review of the AMD Ryzen 2700X and 2600X processors!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: AMD
Tagged: x470, StoreMI, raid, NVMe, amd

NVMe RAID and StoreMI

With Ken testing all of the new AMD X470 goodness that we had floating around the office here at PCPer, I snuck in some quick storage testing to get a look at just how the new platform handled a typical power user NVMe RAID configuration. We will be testing a few different platform configurations:

  • ASUS Z270 w/ 7700K
    • 1x SSD behind chipset (PCH)
    • 2x SSD (RAID-0) behind chipset (PCH)
    • 1x SSD directly connected to CPU
  • AMD X470 w/ 2600X
    • 1x SSD via RAIDXpert bottom driver
    • 2x SSD (RAID-0) via RAIDXpert
    • 1x SSD via MS InBox NVMe driver

For the AMD system we tested, all M.2 ports were direct connected to the CPU. This should be the case for most systems since the AMD chipset has only a PCIe 2.0 x4 link which would cut most NVMe SSD bandwidth in half if passed through it. The difference on AMD is that installing the RAIDXpert software also installs a 'bottom driver' which replaces the Windows NVMe driver, while Intel's RST platform handles this process more in the chipset hardware (but is limited to PCIe 3.0 x4 DMI bandwidth). Now onto the results:

Random Read IOPS

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For random IO, we see expected scaling from AMD, but do note that IOPS comes in ~40% lower than the same configuration on Intel's platform. This is critical as much of the IO seen in general use is random reads at lower queue depths. We'd like to see AMD doing better here, especially in the case where a single SSD was operating without the interference of the RAIDXpert driver, which was better, but still not able to match Intel.

Random Read Latency

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This latency chart should better explain the IOPS performance seen above. Note that the across the board latency increases by ~10us on the X470 platform, followed by another ~20us when switching to the RAIDXpert driver. That combined ~30us is 50% of the 60us QD1 latency seen the Z270 platform (regardless of configuration).

Sequential Read

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Ok, now we see the AMD platform stretch its legs a bit. Since Intel NVMe RAID is bottlenecked by its DMI link while AMD has all NVMe SSDs directly connected to the CPU, AMD is able to trounce Intel on sequentials, but there is a catch. Note the solid red line, which means no RAIDXpert software. That line tracks as it should, leveling off horizontally at a maximum for that SSD. Now look at the two dashed red lines and note how they fall off at ~QD8/16. It appears the RAIDXpert driver is interfering and limiting the ultimate throughput possible. This was even the case for a single SSD passing through the RAIDXpert bottom driver (configured as a JBOD volume).

StoreMI

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AMD has also launched their answer to Intel RST caching. StoreMI is actually a more flexible solution that offers some unique advantages over Intel. Instead of copying a section of HDD data to the SSD cache, StoreMI combines the total available storage space of both the HDD and SSD, and is able to seamlessly shuffle the more active data blocks to the SSD. StoreMI also offers more cache capacity than Intel - up to 512 256GB SSD caches are possible (60GB limit on Intel). Lastly, the user can opt to donate 2GB of RAM as an additional caching layer.

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AMD claims the typical speedups that one would expect with an SSD caching a much slower HDD. We have done some testing with StoreMI and can confirm the above slide's claims. Actively used applications and games end up running at close to SSD speeds (after the first execution, which comes from the HDD). StoreMI is not yet in a final state, but that is expected within the next week or two. We will revisit that topic with hard data once we have the final shipping product on-hand.

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Not Just a Better Camera

Samsung’s updated Galaxy phones are available now, and while the external designs - while beautiful - look the same as last year, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ feature faster internals and an improved camera system. Is it worth an upgrade over the Galaxy S8? How does this new flagship from Samsung compare to Apple’s more expensive iPhone X? Read on to find out!

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During the Galaxy S9 at Samsung’s “Unpacked” event unveiling the new phones, much was made about the GS9’s camera - and particularly its video recording capability, which features an ultra slow-motion mode. While camera is a vital part of the experience, and can make or break a handset for many people, it is the application processor that constitutes a bigger upgrade from last year’s Galaxy S8 phones.

In the USA, Samsung is using Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845, while many of the international versions of the phone use Samsung’s own Exynos SoC. We took an early look at performance with the Snapdragon 845 during Qualcomm’s recent media day, and now with shipping hardware and far more time for benchmarking we can really put this new mobile platform to the test. You can take or leave synthetic benchmark results, of course; I can offer my own subjective impressions of overall responsiveness, which is as much a test of software optimization as hardware.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Specifications (US Version)
Display 6.2-inch 1440x2960 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (SDM845)
CPU Cores 8x Kryo 385 up to 2.8 GHz
GPU Cores Adreno 630
RAM 6 GB LPDDR4X
Storage 64 / 128 / 256 GB
Network Snapdragon X20 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0; A2DP, aptX
USB 3.1 (Type-C)
NFC
Battery 3500 mAh Li-Ion
Dimensions 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm, 189 g
OS Android 8.0

Samsung has opted to bring back the same industrial design introduced with last year’s Galaxy S8/S8+, but this was already a class-leading design so that is not a bad thing.

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Continue reading our review of the Samsung Galaxy S9+!

Author:
Manufacturer: Intel

Overview

Despite the recent launch of the high-powered Hades Canyon NUC, that doesn't mean the traditional NUC form-factor is dead, quite the opposite in fact. Intel continues to iterate on the core 4-in x 4-in NUC design, adding new features and updating to current Intel processor families.

Today, we are taking a look at one of the newest iterations of desktop NUC, the NUC7i7DNHE, also known as the Dawson Canyon platform.

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While this specific NUC is segmented more towards business and industrial applications, we think it has a few tricks up its sleeves that end users will appreciate.

Intel NUC7i7DNHE
Processor Intel Core i7-8650U (Kaby Lake Refresh)
Graphics Intel UHD 630 Integrated
Memory 2 X DDR4 SODIMM slots
Storage

Available M.2 SATA/PCIe drive slot

Available 2.5" drive slot

Wireless Intel Wireless-AC 8265 vPro
Connections Gigabit Ethernet
2 x HDMI 2.0a
4 x USB 3.0
Price $595 - SimplyNUC

Click here to contiune reading our NUC7i7DNHE review!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ECS

The ECS Z370 Lightsaber motherboard is the latest offering in ECS' L337 product line, offering support for the Intel Z370 chipset. Similar to previous iterations of the Lightsaber board, the Z370-Lightsaber builds on the those board by adding dual-m.2 slot support, enhanced power support, as well as support for the latest Intel Coffee Lake-based processors. With an MSRP of $199, ECS priced the Z370 Lightsaber to be price-competitive with other mid-tier Z370-based offerings.

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Courtesy of ECS

ECS designed the Z370 Lightsaber with a 14-phase digital power delivery system, using high efficiency chokes and MOSFETs, as well as solid core capacitors for optimal board performance. The following features into the Z370 Lightsaber board: six SATA 3 ports; two PCIe X2 M.2 ports; a Rivet Networks Killer E2500 GigE NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots; three PCI-Express x1 slots; a 3-digit diagnostic LED display; on-board power, reset, Quick overclock, BIOS set, BIOS update, BIOS backup, and Clear CMOS buttons; a dual BIOS switch; Realtek audio solution; integrated DVI and HDMI video port support; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Gen2 port support.

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Courtesy of ECS

For the integrated audio solution, ECS used a Realtek chipset on a separate PCB to minimize audio crosstalk and interference. The also include a removable audio amplifier chipset and high-end Nichicon audio capacitors for a superior audio experience.

Continue reading our review of the ECS Z370 Lightsaber motherboard!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: ICY DOCK

Introduction, Specifications, and Packaging

Introduction

A while back, we reviewed the ICY DOCK ToughArmor MB998SP-B and MB993SK-B hot-swap SATA docks. These were well built, high-density docks meant for 7mm height SSDs and HDDs. The former part was unique in that it let you squeeze eight drives in a single 5.25” drive bay, all while enabling you to hot swap all of them at the front panel. The ToughArmor line has been pushing into higher and higher bay counts, so it only made sense that we eventually saw something higher than an 8-bay unit:

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Enter the ToughArmor MB516SP-B. While it looks like two MB998SP-B’s stacked on top of each other, there is more than meets the eye in order to pull this trick off properly. We'll focus on that further into the review, but for now, let us get through the specs.

Continue reading for our full review!