Author:
Subject: Networking
Manufacturer: Ubiquiti Networks

Ubiquiti Upgrade

For longtime readers, it should come as no surprise the robustness of our internal network at the PC Perspective offices isn't necessarily our primary focus. We spend a lot of time here dealing with misbehaving hardware and software, so when something works, we tend to stick with it—especially when our day-to-day workflow depends on it.
 
However, I have recently taken it upon myself to make some changes. The main impetus for this project was our desire to move to a mostly 10 Gigabit-enabled network. With the release of lower cost NICs such as the ASUS XG-C100C, it finally started to seem like the right time to 
upgrade our network.
 
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Previously—and try not to laugh too hard—the backbone of our production network was the Zyxel Gateway included with our Gigabit fiber service from our ISP. Honestly, this piece of hardware worked surprisingly well. We were able to get full Gigabit download speeds (our upload speed is restricted at the ISP level to about 300Mbps), and it worked without much of a fuss. The router interface was fairly awful, and confusing at times, but it worked. Additionally, we were using an ASUS RT-AC66U as an access point, not the built-in wireless from the Zyxel.
 
In the past few months, we started to see some odd performance issues with our network and streaming video. While we could do standard file transfers and HTTP traffic at the full 300Mbps upload speed, video streaming from applications like Plex seemed to stop working at about 4 or 5 Mbps. After diagnosing our internal network performance, we started to place blame on the ISP-provided Zyxel gateway.
 
After talking to a few friends who are invested into the HomeLab communities and doing some additional research, I decided that while roll-your-own solutions like pfSense are compelling and have come a long way, they weren't quite right for us. We were looking for more of a turnkey solution that remained flexible, but would also require less initial setup.
 
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Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of ASUS

The ASUS Crosshair VI Hero board features a black PCB with a plastic armor overlay covering the board's rear panel and audio subsystem components. ASUS added RGB LED backlighting to the rear panel cover and chipset heat sink to illuminate the board and ASUS ROG logos, as well as under board lighting along the sound PCB separator line. ASUS designed the board around the AMD X370 chipset, offering support for AMD's Ryzen processor line and Dual Channel DDR4 memory running at a 2400MHz speed. The Crosshair VI Hero motherboard can be found in the wild at an MRSP of $254.99

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Courtesy of ASUS

To power the Ryzen CPU, ASUS integrated a 12 phase digital power delivery system into the Crosshair VI Hero, providing enough juice to push your CPU to its limits. The following features have been integrated into the board: eight SATA III 6Gbps ports; an M.2 PCIe Gen3 x4 32Gbps capable port; an RJ-45 port featuring the Intel I211-AT Gigabit NIC; three PCI-Express x16 slots; two PCI-Express x1 slots; the ASUS SupremeFX S1220 8-Channel audio subsystem; integrated DVI-D and HDMI video ports; and USB 2.0, 3.0, and 3.1 Type-A and Type-C port support.

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Courtesy of ASUS

For superior audio performance, ASUS built the Crosshair VI Hero's audio subsystem around the SupremeFX CODEC, featuring Nichicon audio capacitors, switching MOSFETs, a high-precision clock source, an ESS ESS9023P DAC, and an RC4580 audio buffer.

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Courtesy of ASUS

To appease their AMD user population, ASUS designed the CPU cooler mount for compatibility with both the AM3 and AM4 style coolers. This gives users a wider selection of cooling solutions available to use with the board.

Continue reading our preview of the ASUS Crosshair VI Hero motherboard!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

How a ThinkPad is born

During Lenovo's recent ThinkPad 25th Anniversary Event in Yokohama, Japan, we were given an opportunity to learn a lot about the evolution of the ThinkPad brand over the years.

One of the most significant sources of pride mentioned by the Lenovo executives in charge of the ThinkPad division during this event was the team's Yamato Laboratory. Formerly located in Yamato City (hence the name) and relocated to Yokohama in 2011, the Yamato Labs have been responsible for every ThinkPad product, dating back to the IBM days and the original ThinkPad 700C.

This continuity from the earliest days of ThinkPad has helped provide a standard of quality and education passed down from engineer to engineer over the last 25 years of the ThinkPad brand. In fact, some of the original engineers from 1987 are still with the company and working on the latest and greatest ThinkPad innovations. It's impressive to see such continuity and pride in the Japanese development team considering Lenovo's acquisition of the brand back in 2005.

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One of the most exciting things was a peek at some of the tests that every device bearing the ThinkPad name must go through, including non-notebook devices like the X1 Tablet.

Click here to continue reading our article about ThinkPad testing

Author:
Manufacturer: FSP Group

Introduction and Features

Introduction

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FSP’s new Hydro PTM lineup is part of their top-tier Premium Series and currently includes three models: 750W, 650W, and 550W. We will be taking a detailed look at the 750W Platinum model in this review. FSP Group Inc. has been designing and building PC power supplies under their own brand since 2003. Not only do they market power supplies under their own FSP name but they are the OEM for many other big name brands. Now you might be thinking “Hydro” refers to water-cooling but like we saw last year with the Hydro G series power supplies, the Platinum Series all use conventional air cooling. The Hydro apparently refers to the “Hydro Dynamic Bearing” used in the cooling fan (more commonly referred to as a FDB – Fluid Dynamic Bearing).

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FSP developed the Hydro Platinum Series with an advanced thermal layout design. The units come with all modular cables and are certified to comply with the 80 Plus Platinum efficiency criteria. The power supplies are designed to deliver tight voltage regulation with excellent AC ripple and noise suppression. All Hydro PTM Series power supplies incorporate a quiet 135mm cooling fan and they come backed with 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
•    Advanced thermal layout design
•    Fully modular with flat ribbon-style cables
•    SLI, Crossfire, and VR ready
•    Protections: OVP, UVP, OCP, OPP, SCP and OTP
•    10-Year Manufacturer’s warranty
•    $124.99 USD (Amazon.com, Oct. 2017)

Please continue reading our review of the FSP Hydro PTM 750W PSU!!!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Specifications and Summary

As seems to be the trend for processor reviews as of late, today marks the second in a two-part reveal of Intel’s Coffee Lake consumer platform. We essentially know all there is to know about the new mainstream and DIY PC processors from Intel, including specifications, platform requirements, and even pricing; all that is missing is performance. That is the story we get to tell you today in our review of the Core i7-8700K and Core i5-8400.

Coffee Lake is the second spoke of Intel's “8th generation” wheel that began with the Kaby Lake-R release featuring quad-core 15-watt notebook processors for the thin and light market. Though today’s release of the Coffee Lake-S series (the S is the designation for consumer desktop) doesn’t share the same code name, it does share the same microarchitecture, same ring bus design (no mesh here), and same underlying technology. They are both built on the Intel 14nm process technology.

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And much like Kaby Lake-R in the notebook front, Coffee Lake is here to raise the core count and performance profile of the mainstream Intel CPU playbook. When AMD first launched the Ryzen 7 series of processors that brought 8-cores and 16-threads of compute, it fundamentally shook the mainstream consumer markets. Intel was still on top in terms of IPC and core clock speeds, giving it the edge in single and lightly threaded workloads, but AMD had released a part with double the core and thread count and was able to dominate in most multi-threaded workloads compared to similar Intel offerings.

Much like Skylake-X before it, Coffee Lake had been on Intel’s roadmap from the beginning, but new pressure from a revived AMD meant bringing that technology to the forefront sooner rather than later in an effort stem any potential shifts in market share and maybe more importantly, mind share among investors, gamers, and builders. Coffee Lake, and the Core i7, Core i5, and Core i3 processors that will be a part of this 8000-series release, increase the core count across the board, and generally raise clock speeds too. Intel is hoping that by bumping its top mainstream CPU to 6-cores, and coupling that with better IPC and higher clocks, it can alleviate the advantages that AMD has with Ryzen.

But does it?

That’s what we are here to find out today. If you need a refresher on the build up to this release, we have the specifications and slight changes in the platform and design summarized for you below. Otherwise, feel free to jump on over to the benchmarks!

Continue reading our review of the Intel Core i7-8700K and Core i5-8400!!

Subject: Storage
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

Introduction

Introduction

We've been hearing about Intel's VROC (NVMe RAID) technology for a few months now. ASUS started slipping clues in with their X299 motherboard releases starting back in May. The idea was very exciting, as prior NVMe RAID implementations on Z170 and Z270 platforms were bottlenecked by the chipset's PCIe 3.0 x4 DMI link to the CPU, and they also had to trade away SATA ports for M.2 PCIe lanes in order to accomplish the feat. X99 motherboards supported SATA RAID and even sported four additional ports, but they were left out of NVMe bootable RAID altogether. It would be foolish of Intel to launch a successor to their higher end workstation-class platform without a feature available in two (soon to be three) generations of their consumer platform.

To get a grip on what VROC is all about, lets set up some context with a few slides:

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First, we have a slide laying out what the acronyms mean:

  • VROC = Virtual RAID on CPU
  • VMD = Volume Management Device

What's a VMD you say?

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...so the VMD is extra logic present on Intel Skylake-SP CPUs, which enables the processor to group up to 16 lanes of storage (4x4) into a single PCIe storage domain. There are three VMD controllers per CPU.

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VROC is the next logical step, and takes things a bit further. While boot support is restricted to within a single VMD, PCIe switches can be added downstream to create a bootable RAID possibly exceeding 4 SSDs. So long as the array need not be bootable, VROC enables spanning across multiple VMDs and even across CPUs!

Assembling the Missing Pieces

Unlike prior Intel storage technology launches, the VROC launch has been piecemeal at best and contradictory at worst. We initially heard that VROC would only support Intel SSDs, but Intel later published a FAQ that stated 'selected third-party SSDs' would also be supported. One thing they have remained steadfast on is the requirement for a hardware key to unlock RAID-1 and RAID-5 modes - a seemingly silly requirement given their consumer chipset supports bootable RAID-0,1,5 without any key requirement (and VROC only supports one additional SSD over Z170/Z270/Z370, which can boot from 3-drive arrays).

On the 'piecemeal' topic, we need three things for VROC to work:

  • BIOS support for enabling VMD Domains for select groups of PCIe lanes.
  • Hardware for connecting a group of NVMe SSDs to that group of PCIe lanes.
  • A driver for OS mounting and managing of the array.

Let's run down this list and see what is currently available:

BIOS support?

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Check. Hardware for connecting multiple drives to the configured set of lanes?

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Check (960 PRO pic here). Note that the ASUS Hyper M.2 X16 Card will only work on motherboards supporting PCIe bifurcation, which allows the CPU to split PCIe lanes into subgroups without the need of a PLX chip. You can see two bifurcated modes in the above screenshot - one intended for VMD/VROC, while the other (data) selection enables bifurcation without enabling the VMD controller. This option presents the four SSDs to the OS without the need of any special driver.

With the above installed, and the slot configured for VROC in the BIOS, we are greeted by the expected disappointing result:

VROC-2.png

Now for that pesky driver. After a bit of digging around the dark corners of the internet:

VROC-11.png

Check! (well, that's what it looked like after I rapidly clicked my way through the array creation)

Don't even pretend like you won't read the rest of this review! (click here now!)

Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple

A New Standard

With a physical design that is largely unchanged other than the addition of a glass back for wireless charging support, and featuring incremental improvements to the camera system most notably with the Plus version, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are interesting largely due to the presence of a new Apple SoC. The upcoming iPhone X (pronounced "ten") stole the show at Apple's keynote annoucement earlier this month, but the new A11 Bionic chip powers all 2017 iPhone models, and for the first time Apple has a fully custom GPU after their highly publicized split with Imagination Technologies, makers of the PowerVR graphics found in previous Apple SoCs.

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The A11 Bionic powering the 2017 iPhones contains Apple’s first 6-core processor, which is comprised of two high performance cores (code-named ‘Monsoon’) and four high efficiency cores (code-named ‘Mistral’). Hugely important to its performance is the fact that all six cores are addressable with this new design, as Apple mentions in their description of the SoC:

"With six cores and 4.3 billion transistors, A11 Bionic has four efficiency cores that are up to 70 percent faster than the A10 Fusion chip, and two performance cores that are up to 25 percent faster. The CPU can even harness all six cores simultaneously when you need a turbo boost."

It was left to improvments to IPC and clock speed to boost the per-core performance of previous Apple SoCs, such as the previous A10 Fusion part, which contained a quad-core CPU split in an even arrangement of 2x performance + 2x efficiency cores. Apple's quad-core effort did not affect app performance beyond the two performance cores, with additional cores limited to background tasks in real-world use (though the A10 Fusion did not provide any improvement to battery life over previous efforts, as we saw).

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The A11 Bionic on the iPhone 8 system board (image credit: iFixit)

Just how big an impact this new six-core CPU design will have can be instantly observed with the CPU benchmarks to follow, and on the next page we will find out how Apple's in-house GPU solution compare to both the previous A10 Fusion PowerVR graphics, and market-leading Qualcomm Adreno 540 found in the Snapdragon 835. We will begin with the CPU benchmarks.

Continue reading our look at the performance of Apple's A11 SoC!

Author:
Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Marseille

Overview

When we first saw product page for the Marseille mCable Gaming Edition, a wave of skepticism waved across the PC Perspective offices. Initially, an HDMI cable that claims to improve image quality while gaming sounds like the snake oil that "audiophile" companies like AudioQuest have been peddling for years. 

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However, looking into some of the more technical details offered by Marseille, their claims seemed to be more and more likely. By using a signal processor embedded inside the HDMI connector itself, Marseille appears to be manipulating the video signal to improve quality in ways applicable to gaming. Specifically, their claim of Anti-Aliasing on all video signals has us interested.

So for curiosities sake, we ordered the $150 mCable Gaming Edition and started to do some experimentation.

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Even from the initial unboxing, there are some unique aspects to the mCable. First, you might notice that the connectors are labeled with "Source" and "TV." Since the mCable has a signal processor in it, this distinction which is normally meaningless starts to matter a great deal.

Similarly, on the "TV" side, there is a USB cable used to power the signal processing chip. Marseille claims that most modern TV's with USB connections will be able to power the mCable.

While a lot of Marseilles marketing materials are based on upgrading the visual fidelity of console games that don't have adjustable image quality settings, we decided to place our aim on a market segment we are intimately familiar with—PC Gaming. Since we could selectively turn off Anti-Aliasing in a given game, and PC games usually implement several types of AA, it seemed like the most interesting testing methodology. 

Continue reading our look at the new Marseille mCable Gaming Edition!!

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: Intel

Specifications and Architecture

It has been an interesting 2017 for Intel. Though still the dominant market share leader in consumer processors of all shapes and sizes, from DIY PCs to notebooks to servers, it has come under attack with pressure from AMD unlike any it has felt in nearly a decade. It started with the release of AMD Ryzen 7 and a family of processors aimed at the mainstream user and enthusiast markets. That followed by the EPYC processor release moving in on Intel’s turf of the enterprise markets. And most recently, Ryzen Threadripper took a swing (and hit) at the HEDT (high-end desktop) market that Intel had created and held its own since the days of the Nehalem-based Core i7-920 CPU.

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Between the time Threadripper was announced and when it shipped, Intel made an interesting move. It decided to launch and announce its updated family of HEDT processors dubbed Skylake-X. Only available in a 10-core model at first, the Core i9-7900X was the fastest tested processor in our labs, at the time. But it was rather quickly overtaken by the likes of the Threadripper 1950X that ran with 16-cores and 32-threads of processing. Intel had already revealed that its HEDT lineup would go to 18-core options, though availability and exact clock speeds remained in hiding until recently.

  i9-7980XE i9-7960X i9-7940X i9-7920X i9-7900X  i7-7820X i7-7800X TR 1950X TR 1920X TR 1900X
Architecture Skylake-X Skylake-X Skylake-X Skylake-X Skylake-X Skylake-X Skylake-X Zen Zen Zen
Process Tech 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm+ 14nm 14nm 14nm
Cores/Threads 18/36 16/32 14/28 12/24 10/20 8/16 6/12 16/32 12/24 8/16
Base Clock 2.6 GHz 2.8 GHz 3.1 GHz 2.9 GHz 3.3 GHz 3.6 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.4 GHz 3.5 GHz 3.8 GHz
Turbo Boost 2.0 4.2 GHz 4.2 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.3 GHz 4.0 GHz 4.0 GHz 4.0 GHz 4.0 GHz
Turbo Boost Max 3.0 4.4 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.4 GHz 4.5 GHz 4.5 GHz N/A N/A N/A N/A
Cache 24.75MB 22MB 19.25MB 16.5MB 13.75MB 11MB 8.25MB 40MB 38MB ?
Memory Support DDR4-2666 Quad Channel DDR4-2666 Quad Channel DDR4-2666 Quad Channel DDR4-2666 Quad Channel DDR4-2666
Quad Channel
DDR4-2666
Quad Channel
DDR4-2666
Quad Channel
DDR4-2666
Quad Channel
DDR4-2666 Quad Channel DDR4-2666 Quad Channel
PCIe Lanes 44 44 44 44 44 28 28 64 64 64
TDP 165 watts 165 watts 165 watts 140 watts 140 watts 140 watts 140 watts 180 watts 180 watts 180 watts?
Socket 2066 2066 2066 2066 2066 2066 2066 TR4 TR4 TR4
Price $1999 $1699 $1399 $1199 $999 $599 $389 $999 $799 $549

Today we are now looking at both the Intel Core i9-7980XE and the Core i9-7960X, 18-core and 16-core processors, respectively. The goal from Intel is clear with the release: retake the crown as the highest performing consumer processor on the market. It will do that, but it does so at $700-1000 over the price of the Threadripper 1950X.

Continue reading our review of the Intel Core i9-7980XE and Core i9-7960X!

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: GIGABYTE

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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

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Courtesy of GIGABYTE

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

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

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Overview

Thanks goes out to CUK, Computer Upgrade King, for supplying the MSI GS63VR notebook for our testing and evaluation

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

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

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

512GB Samsung PM871a M.2 SATA SSD

1TB Seagate 5400RPM HDD

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

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

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

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

Continue reading our review of the MSI GS63VR Gaming Notebook!

Author:
Manufacturer: Seasonic

Introduction and Features

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: HyperX

A Tale of Two Form-Factors

HyperX (a division of Kingston) entered the mechanical keyboard market a year ago with the Alloy series, which began as a pair of 104-key designs with the Alloy Elite and Alloy FPS. Both keyboards feature Cherry MX keys, with the FPS sporting a minimalist design with a compact frame to save room on a desk. Now a TKL version of the FPS has arrived - the FPS Pro - to compliment the 104-key version already at the PC Perspective offices, and in this review we will test out both versions of this gaming keyboard.

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Both keyboards feature adjustable red backlighting

Features from HyperX for the Alloy FPS:

  • Compact design frees desktop space — waste less time reorienting the mouse
  • Solid-steel frame for stability, giving you supreme confidence in your controls
  • Ultra-portable design with detachable cable is great for LAN parties and tournaments
  • Cherry MX mechanical keys for tactile feedback and reliable keypresses
  • Convenient USB charge port allows you to charge other devices
  • Game mode, 100-percent Anti-Ghosting and full N-key rollover features ensure your inputs are correct
  • HyperX red backlit keys with customizable, dynamic lighting functions
  • Additional colored, textured keycaps spotlight the most important keys

Now take virtually the same feature list (minus the additional keycaps) and subtract the number pad, and you have the Alloy FPS Pro, an “ultra-minimalistic tenkeyless design ideal for FPS pros”, according to HyperX. This reduction in size and number of keys is accompanied by a reduction in price, and the Alloy FPS Pro will be 20% less expensive than the 104-key FPS when it launches in late August. How do these mechanical keyboards stack up? Read on for our full review!

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Continue reading our review of the HyperX Alloy FPS and FPS Pro mechanical gaming keyboards!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Can you hear me now?

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

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

WhisperMode is enabled through the NVIDIA GeForce Experience application.

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

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

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

Continue reading our review of the new NVIDIA WhisperMode technology!

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Clutch Chairz

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Clutch Chairz

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

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Courtesy of Clutch Chairz

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Courtesy of Clutch Chairz

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Courtesy of Clutch Chairz

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

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

Subject: Motherboards
Manufacturer: ECS

Introduction and Specifications

For Intel’s Z270 chipset ECS has a pair of motherboard options, with the ATX Z270-LIGHTSABER and mini-ITX Z270H4-I. We have a look at both of these offerings today.

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The Z270-LIGHTSABER tries to live up to that name with customizable LED lighting around the board, which is controlled through the system setup. It boasts a 14-phase power delivery and all solid caps, and offers simplified overclocking through the ECS MIB X interface and Intel XMP 1.2 and 1.3 memory support. Additionally the LIGHTSABER offers comprehensive storage options with a PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot (Intel Optane is supported), U.2 port, and a full complement of SATA III ports. There is also a Killer E2500 NIC, and premium audio with a dedicated TI headphone amp, among the other features.

For its part the Z270H4-I packs many of the same features as its ATX cousin, though this mini-ITX motherboard only provides a 6-phase power design, and does not feature the LED lighting or dedicated headphone amp of the Z270-LIGHTSABER. It does provide the same full PCIe 3.0 x4 M.2 slot with Intel Optane support, and while the Z270H4-I does not have a Killer NIC it replaces this with a pair including an Intel I-219V and Realtek LAN. The Z270H4-I also supports M.2 wireless cards and includes an optional pair of wireless antennae.

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I installed my Core i7-7700K in both motherboards and in addition to some baseline benchmarks I tried out some casual overclocking and will provide general usage impressions with both boards.

Continue reading our review of the ECS Z270-LIGHTSABER and Z270H4-I motherboards!

Introduction and Specifications

FSP might be familiar as a manufacturer of power supplies, but the company has a growing product offering that now includes cases and CPU coolers, among other things. In this review we will examine the Windale line, which consists of the Windale 4 and Windale 6, a pair of tower-style CPU air coolers.

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"FSP CPU Air Cooler Windale Series come out with two models: Windale 6 and Windale 4. Both of them are featured with CPU direct contact technology which can release CPU heat more efficiently. The 120mm extreme quiet fan enhances better cooling performance. The High-tech 120mm fin design provides optimized cooling effect. They are highly compatible with the latest sockets of Intel and AMD."

FSP has priced their coolers to compete in what is often called a 'crowded market', and the $29.99 Windale 4 in particular seems to directly compete with the ever-popular Cooler Master Hyper 212 EVO - on price, if nothing else. Can FSP's first effort dethrone the EVO as a budget favorite? To this end we will see exactly how the Windale 4 and 6 perform against Cooler Master's venerable air cooler with a toasty Intel Core i7-7700K supplying the load temps (and my trusty SPL meter along for the ride to capture noise levels).

We will get right into it with a summary of the specifications for both FSP Windale coolers:


Windale 4 (model AC401)

  • Heatsink Material: Aluminum Alloy
  • Heat-pipe: 6 mm x4
  • Fan Speed: 600-1600 RPM (PWM) ± 15%
  • Bearing Type: Sleeve Bearing
  • Fan Air Flow: 60 CFM ± 10%
  • Dimensions (LxWxH): 122 x 83 x 158 mm
  • Weight: 620 g

Windale 6 (model AC601 - blue LED)

  • Heatsink Material: Aluminum Alloy with black plating
  • Heat-pipe: 6 mm x 6
  • Fan Speed 600-1600 RPM (PWM) ± 15%
  • Bearing Type: Sleeve Bearing
  • Fan Air Flow: 60 CFM ± 10%
  • Dimensions (LxWxH): 122 x 110 x 165 mm
  • Weight: 823 g

Continue reading our review of the FSP Windale 4 and 6 coolers!

Author:
Manufacturer: bequiet!

Introduction and Features

Introduction

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

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

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BeQuiet! SFX-L 600W PSU Key Features:

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

Specifications

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

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

Manufacturer: Koolance

Introduction and Technical Specifications

Introduction

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Courtesy of Koolance

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

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Courtesy of Koolance

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

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Courtesy of Koolance

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

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Courtesy of Koolance

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

Technical Specifications (taken from the manufacturer website)

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

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

Author:
Manufacturer: Seasonic

Introduction and Features

Introduction

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

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

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

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Seasonic PRIME Platinum Series PSU Key Features:

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

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