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Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: PC Perspective

PC Components

It's that time of year again where the holidays are upon us, it's freezing outside, and balancing work, school, and family events makes us all a bit crazy. If you are still procrastinating on your holiday shopping or are just not sure what to get the techie that seems to have everything already, PC Perspective has you covered! And if you dare not venture outside into the winter wasteland, there is still time to order online and have it arrive in time!

Following the same format as previous years, the first set of pages are picks that the staff has put together collectively and are recommendations for things like PC hardware components like CPUs, graphics cards, and coolers, mobile hardware (phones, tablets, etc.), and finally accessories and audio. Beyond that, the staff members are given a section to suggest picks of their own that may not fit into one of the main categories but are still thoughtful and useful gift ideas!

Good luck out there, and thank you for another wonderful year of your valued readership! May you have safe travels and memorable holidays!

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Image courtesy maf04 via Flickr creative commons.

Processors

Intel Core i7-6700K Quad-Core Unlocked Processor - $344, Amazon

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It's a bit of an interesting time for CPUs with Intel's Kaby Lake (e.g. 7700K) not out yet and AMD's Ryzen Zen-based (e.g. 8 core Summit Ridge) processors slated for release early next year. Last year the i7-6700K was  our top pick, and due to timing of upcoming releases, it is still the pick for this year though it may be wise to look at other gift ideas this year unless they really want that gaming PC ASAP. On the plus side, it is a bit cheaper than last year! You can read our review of the Core i7 6700K here.

AMD Athlon X4 880K Unlocked Quad Core - $92, Amazon

On the AMD side of things, the Athlon X4 880K is a great processor to base a budget gaming build around. The pricing works out a bit cheaper than the old 860K as well as offering slightly faster clockspeeds and a better stock cooler.

Continue reading our holiday gift guide for our picks for graphics cards, storage, and more!

Graphics Cards

NVIDIA GTX 1080 (EVGA FTW Hybrid) - $730, EVGA (Amazon has non FTW Hybrid for $700)

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The NVIDIA GTX 1080 is the current consumer-grade performance king, and there are a number of brands to choose from. Whichever you go with, the Pascal-based graphics card is ready for 1440 and even 4k gaming along with VR (virtual reality) gaming. The EVGA FTW Hybrid is a beast of a card that can easily be overclocked with keeping temperatures in check.

If you are looking for something a bit cheaper, AMD's RX 480 is a great midrange graphics card that can easily do 1080p with the details cranked up. Sapphire has a good factory overclocked card with the RX 480 Nitro+ which can be found for $250. For reference, check out our reviews on the RX 480 (we also have a video of the Sapphire card specifically) and it's competitor the GTX 1060.

Storage

Samsung 960 Evo 1TB NVMe M.2 SSD - $480, Amazon

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Samsung's recently released 960 Evo is not the fastest SSD available, but it's no slouch either. Using Samsung's TLC V-NAND flash, its Polaris controller, and 1GB of DDR3 cache, the drive packs 1TB of speedy storage into the M.2 form factor. The NVMe SSD is rated at 3,200 MB/s sequential reads, 1,900 MB/s sequential writes, 380,000 4k random reads and 360,000 4k random writes (IOPS ratings at QD32). It is rated at 1.5 million hours MTBF and while it does not have the lifetime or write speeds of the pro version (960 Pro), it is quite a bit cheaper! The gamer in your life will appreciate the super fast loading times too!

If you are looking for something a bit more down to earth, SATA SSDs continue to get cheaper and more capacious and there are even some good budget M.2 options these days!

MyDigitalSSD BPX 480GB NVMe M.2 SSD - $200, Amazon

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MyDigitalSSD's BPX solid state drive pairs a Phison PS5007-E7 controller with up to 480GB of 2D MLC NAND. The drive is rated at a respectable 2,600 MB/s sequential reads, 1,300 MB/s sequential writes, and approximately 208,728 4k random read IOPS and 202,713 4k random write IOPS. Despite being from a less well known company, the budget drive puts up very nice numbers for the price and comes with a 5 year warranty, 2 million hours MTBF rating, and 1,400 TB total bytes written rating on the flash. Pricing is much more budget friendly at $200 for the 480GB model, $115 for the 240GB, and $70 for the 120GB drive.

SATA SSD Recommendations

SATA SSDs are still great options for a system build and/or HDD upgrade, and Allyn has a few picks later on in this guide.

The following pages are individual selections / gift ideas from each staff member!

Continue with the rest of our last minute holiday gift guide for nerds!!

5G might be a hard cell

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 19, 2016 - 05:19 PM |
Tagged: 5G, cell phones, predictions

At least one expert is predicting that the roll out of 5G mobile service will either be delayed or poorly implemented.  Over at The Register Professor William Webb offers his insight as to why this will be.  He predicts that the physical upgrading or replacing of existing signal stations from 4G to 5G will be significantly more expensive than the upgrade to 4G was and that a hybrid option will result in an insignificant increase in network speeds.  He also suggests that total mobile data usage is starting to plateau and we may not even need this extra bandwidth.  That is a contentious claim, with mobile usage seemingly increasing thanks to more and more streaming apps and the ever expanding market of mobile users.  Any slowdown in total usage could instead be caused by pricing, many simply can't afford the overage charges incurred by heavy data usage but would gleefully slurp up more the moment their data caps increase.

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"THE 5G WIRELESS VISION is flawed because technological advances are insufficient to deliver it, users won't pay extra for the higher data rates and don't need the greater capacity it is expected to provide - and because mobile operators can't afford to implement it anyway."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Fatal1ty, you Monster! The FXM 200 gaming headset

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2016 - 10:49 PM |
Tagged: fatal1ty, monster, FXM 200, gaming headset, audio

Ah Monster, forever famous for their cable pricing.  Surprisingly the Fatal1ty FXM 200 gaming headset is a mere $95, an amazing value as they feature both Hex720 Sound Chamber Technology and Game-tuned Pure Monster Sound!  Surprisingly, The Tech Report were impressed with the quality of gaming audio which came out of this headset and had no reservations in recommending it for gamers, either single player or online.  However that quality did not extend to listening to music, as the quality of audio suffered greatly when listening to various tracks.  This does make sense as Fatal1ty products are made for gamers, not audiophiles.  Drop by for a look at their full review here.

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"Famed gamer Fatal1ty has joined up with Monster to produce a pair of signature headsets: the FXM 100 and FXM 200. We put the FXM 200 to the test to see whether its performance lives up to that fabled name."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Audio Corner

Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Das Keyboard

Premium Minimalism

Das Keyboard describes their products as "the ultimate experience for badasses", and the Austin, TX based company has delivered premium designs since their initial (completely blank) keyboard in 2005. The Prime 13 is a traditional 104-key design (with labeled keys), and features Cherry MX Brown switches and simple white LED backlighting. So it is a truly "badass" product? Read on to find out!

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"Das Keyboard Prime 13 is a minimalist mechanical keyboard designed to take productivity to the next level. Free of fancy features, the Prime 13 delivers an awesome typing experience by focusing on premium material and simple design. Featuring an anodized aluminum top panel, Cherry MX switches with white LEDs, USB pass-through and an extra-long braided cable, the Prime 13 is the ideal mechanical keyboard for overachievers who want get the job done."

I don't need to tell prospective mechanical keyboard buyers that the market is very crowded, and it seems to grow every month. Just about PC accessory maker offers at least one option, and many have tried to distinguish themselves with RGB lighting effects and software with game-specific profiles and the like. So is there still room for a simple, non-RGB keyboard with no special software involved? I think so, but it will need to be quite a premium design to justify a $149 price tag, and that's what the Prime 13 will run at retail. First impressions are very good, but I'll try to cover the experience as well as I can in text and photos in this review.

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A close look at the MX Brown switches within the Prime 13

Continue reading our review of the Das Keyboard Prime 13 mechanical keyboard!!

Stop paying the ransomware you idiots! You get nothing back and encourage them to continue!

Subject: General Tech | December 16, 2016 - 05:47 PM |
Tagged: ransomware, security, idiots, backup

To anyone working in the field, it will come as no surprise that almost half of the 1600 businesses and consumers in the survey quoted at The Inquirer have been the victim of a ransomware attack.  What will come as a disappointment to you is that 70% of those who were infected paid the the ransom, 25% of them between $20,000 to $40,000.  Shockingly the majority of those who paid the ransom got nothing back; after all how could someone who makes money by purposefully infecting machines not honour their word?

If you are infected with ransomware you have lost the data, pure and simple.  Reimage and move on, this is why you have backups.  It is painful and frustrating but if you pay the bitcoins you are not going to get anything back and are encouraging them to continue by making this a lucrative business.  Just as it is with spam, it takes only a tiny percentage to fall for it to make it profitable.  Go and back your stuff up, twice.  If you need a stocking stuffer for someone get them an external drive or a subscription to an online backup service, look into CryptoDrop or a similar program.  Just don't give them bitcoins

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"The report suggested that as many as 46 per cent of the respondents had been affected by ransomware and that 70 per cent of these had admitted to paying the ransom, contrary to the advice of law enforcement agencies."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Drabby Lake has sprung a leak, so to the Intel 200 series chipset

Subject: General Tech, Processors | December 15, 2016 - 05:29 PM |
Tagged: leak, kaby lake, intel 200

Tech ARP have an interesting story posted today, it would seem they pried the specs of the upcoming Kaby Lake processors and accompanying Intel 200 chipset.  The top chip, the $349 Core i7-7700K will have 4 cores and 8 threads running at 4.2 GHz, with an 8 MB L3 cache and a TDP of 95W while the non-K version will have it core clock dropped to 3.6GHz, TDP dropped to 65W and price lowered to $309.  The chipsets will encompass series similar to the previous generations from Intel, including the LGA 1151 Z270, H270, Q270, B250 and Q250 series.  There is no information on the socket the server level C422 and high end X299 boards will use in this leak, but we are sure you can extrapolate from existing rumours and innuendo.  Follow that link for the entire lineup.

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"As AMD gears up to launch the AMD Ryzen desktop processor in early Q1 2017, Intel has finalised the launch plans for their desktop Kaby Lake processors, and the accompanying 200 Series chipsets.

Although Intel has been extremely secretive, we managed to obtain the specifications and launch details of the desktop Kaby Lake processors, and the 200 Series chipsets. Check it out!"

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: TechARP

NVIDIA Releases GeForce 376.33 Drivers

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2016 - 10:07 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers

While they’re not really promoting this release, such as with a blog post on the GeForce website, NVIDIA has just released their 376.33 WHQL drivers. This one is not associated with any specific game release, so it seems like this is more of a maintenance release, working on bugs rather than application-dependent optimizations. The release notes specifically mention several security improvements, so I would assume they’re going back through previous changes and looking at things like video memory management, which might also lead to overall performance and stability enhancements.

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As for the long-running Folding@Home bug affecting some of our readers, it turns out that the cause was a bug in the application that just happened to work until NVIDIA applied a fix on their end. This reminds me of when I was working on an OpenCL-based software renderer. At one point, I started crashing when executing on the Intel CPU, but not on either GPU (Intel HD 4600 or NVIDIA GTX 670). I later found out that it was an out-of-bounds access in my code, when a render group slightly bled off the side of the render buffer, which the GPU drivers silently compensated for. It looked like Intel’s CPU driver had a bug, but, really, it was just the only one that didn’t work around my bug.

Despite this, NVIDIA is planning on releasing a workaround for Folding@Home in a hotfix driver, until the organization can patch the issue on their own. This driver is not the one, though.

Source: NVIDIA

Who's a pretty Dog? Watch what the graphics settings do to image quality

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2016 - 06:21 PM |
Tagged: gaming, watch dogs 2

[H]ard|OCP have already gone through the highest quality video settings in Watch Dogs 2 which are still playable at a reasonable frame rate, now they are investigating how these settings actually effect the visual quality. The High Resolution Texture Pack does indeed make a difference to the world, much like it did in Skyrim but how do the two NVIDIA only  shadow options differ from the Ultra setting?   The Extra Details slider seems to be a renamed draw distance slider with the effect you would expect and there is a long look at the variety of AA options offered.  If you are curious which of these options most appeal to you, take a long look.

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"In Part 3 of our Watch Dog 2 series we focus on the image quality aspects of this game. We will compare high resolution textures, shadows, ambient occlusion, extra details slider and AA. If you are curious what those features look like, how they compare between quality levels, this article will give you an idea what to expect."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Gaming

 

Source: [H]ard|OCP

Roll out the gifts this season, mobility for all

Subject: General Tech | December 14, 2016 - 05:31 PM |
Tagged: holiday gift guide

You want tablets and chromebooks and laptops and cellphones, Shields and Yogas and iPads and Pixels; but can you recall a shopping list which has them all?  Try out The Tech Report's gift guide, for it has many shiny things and if you want Google's Pixel you will even find it shows ...

Anyways, they have put together a list of dozens of their favourite mobile products from this year, all of which will be familiar but it is nice to have a compendium of the vast amount of products which were released in 2016; apart from that one hot item.

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"In this edition of The Tech Report's mobile staff picks, we dig ourselves out of the snow to bring you the latest and best in tablets, Chromebooks, laptops, and phones."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Zalman's ZM-K900M mechanical keyboard can be taught to do more than change colours

Subject: General Tech | December 13, 2016 - 07:53 PM |
Tagged: zalman, ZM-K900M, input, mechanical keyboard, Kailh Blue RGB

Not only does Zalman's ZM-K900M suffer from RGB disease underneath it's Kailh switches, it also has a split personality.  When you look at the closeups of the keys over at The Tech Report you will see odd symbols and messages under the usual lettering, things like ZM2 or Speed Meter.  Those are for programming macros, simply hitting Fn + ZM# starts the recording and it will capture every click, including buttons which emulate mouse buttons and stop once you press Fn + ZM# again.   These will play back exactly as recorded and the somewhat misspelled Speed Meter allows you to increase or decrease the speed which it plays back.  If you find this intriguing, pop by The Tech Report for a closer look.

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"Zalman's ZM-K900M keyboard hides a huge range of hardware-controlled backlight and macro modes underneath an unassuming exterior. We took it for a spin to see whether this RGB LED-backlit mechanical marvel stands out in an increasingly jam-packed keyboard market."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk