Maximum PC - Features en Rig of the Month: Lian Li PC-V77F <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;">This unnamed beauty cleans up real nice</span></h3> <p>Most case mods involve flashy lights, obvious branding, and a shtick of some sort. Brendon Serack's unnamed build is all about clean lines, clean componenets, and clean cable management. It may not be a <a href="" target="_blank">toaster</a>, but it's still a stunning rig that's more than worthy of being this month's <a href="" target="_blank"><strong>Rig of the Month</strong></a>.&nbsp;</p> <h3 style="text-align: center;"><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/_mg_7678.jpg" alt="Serack PC" title="Serack PC" width="420" height="545" /></span></h3> <p>Brendon tells us that this machine's been in the works since 2012, when he embarked on a quest to build the cleanest system possible. It took two separate iterations before he finally settled on the spectacular system featured in the gallery below. The machine is based on a Lian Li PC-V77F that Brendon modified inside and out. He didn't like the way that the components sat inside the rig, so he spun the motherboard around with a reverse-ATX modification. A false floor hides the pump's wires and covers the array of cable management holes drilled into the case from the factory. What makes the entire endeavour even more impressive is that all of the additional aluminum pieces were cut and filed by hand.&nbsp;</p> <p>Beyond the obvious touches, Brendon also spent hundreds of hours optimizing the case's cable management. He focused on making everything flat and straight throughout and even went as far as painting and dyeing pieces of various components to match the blue-and-black theme.&nbsp;</p> <p>The rig wouldn't be half as cool as it is without the awesome components contained within. Brendon installed an Intel i7-4770K on a Gigabyte Z897X-UD5H with 32GB of Team Group Elite DDR3 memory, an Asus GTX 980 Strix, and a Silverstone ST1000-G power supply with MDPC-X sleeving. All of this is cooled by two massive radiators, a waterblock for the CPU and GPU, as well as a EKWB pump and XSPC Photon reservoir.&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0px 0px 10px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;"><em>Have a case mod of your own that you would like to submit to our monthly feature? Make sure to read the rules/tips&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="" target="_blank">here</a>&nbsp;and email us at&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="" target="_blank"></a>&nbsp;with your submissions.</em></p> Brendon Serack cable management Clean computer Lian Li PC-V77F Rig of the Month rig of the month Features Mon, 20 Apr 2015 20:35:40 +0000 Ben Kim 29655 at Head 2 Head: Wordpress vs. Squarespace <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/wordpress_squarespace.jpg" alt="Wordpress vs Squarespace" title="Wordpress vs Squarespace" width="228" height="161" style="float: right;" />Evaluating website builders</h3> <p>So, you've decided to build a website but don't know where to start, is that it? You're not alone. This is the Internet era, after all, and there are countless reasons why you might want a website of your own. It could be something as simple as an online photo album to share with family and friends, or a blog for your ramblings on whichever topics tickle your fancy. Or maybe your needs are more professional in nature and you're looking at constructing an e-commerce site to sell your one-of-a-kind thingamajigs.</p> <p>You have options. Lots of them, actually. One of them is to buckle down, learn the ins and outs of HTML, and code your site from scratch. If you don't have the time or gumption for that, there are website builders that streamline the process so that anybody at any skill level can build the site they're looking for. Two of the more popular are Wordpress and Squarespace. Which one is the overall better option? Let's find out!</p> <h3>ROUND 1: Ease of Use</h3> <p>Building a website can be stressful. Or it can be fun. Part of that depends on your skill level, though the onus here falls on Wordpress and Squarespace to streamline the experience so you don't feel like Hulk-smashing your keyboard when things don't turn out the way you want them to. When you dive into one of the paid options, Wordpress spreads its wings beyond a robust blogging platform and into a bona fide website builder, and though it tries to hold your hand along the way, it's definitely geared more toward users who already have at least some experience building webpages.</p> <p>Squarespace, on the other hand, is a bit more nurturing to first-time or still-green users. The interface is fairly intuitive, allowing you to hop in and create a relatively professional-looking site without a lot of effort or, just as important, time. And if you do get stuck, there are several helpful video tutorials available.</p> <p><img src="/files/u69/squarespace.jpg" alt="Squarespace" title="Squarespace" width="620" height="504" /></p> <p><strong>Winner: Squarespace</strong></p> <h3>ROUND 2: Themes and Templates</h3> <p>One of the easiest ways to go about building a website is to take an existing template and tailor it to your specific content and needs. As Squarespace has become more popular, it's library of templates has grown. It's also easy to narrow one down, as they're broken up into categories—Featured, Businesses, Porfolios, Stores, Personal, Musicians, Restaurants, and Weddings. However, there just aren't that many to choose from, only a few dozen by our count. Wordpress has over 1,700 themes, and if that's not enough, you can hit up the web for even more from various marketplaces. They're not organized as well as Squarespace's, and that might account for something if Squarespace had a few hundred to choose from. It doesn't, and given the enormous disparity here, Wordpress gets the nod.</p> <p><strong>Winner: Wordpress</strong></p> <h3>ROUND 3: Price</h3> <p>Squarespace breaks down its subscription option into three tiers:</p> <ul> <li>Personal: $10 per month, or $96 billed annually ($8 per month)</li> <li>Professional: $20 per month, or $192 billed annually ($16 per month)</li> <li>Business: $30 per month, or $288 billed annually ($24 per month)</li> </ul> <p>There is no free tier, though Squarespace does allow you to try out any of the paid options at no cost for 14 days, and without a credit card, which is nice. All three options come with unlimited storage and bandwidth, and both the Professional and Business subscriptions allow unlimited pages (Personal is limited to 20). Integrated commerce is part of each package too, though you can only sell a single product on the Personal tier; Professional and Business allow for up to 20 products and an unlimited amount, respectively.</p> <p>Wordpress also offers three options. They include:</p> <ul> <li>Basic: Free for life</li> <li>Premium: $99 per year</li> <li>Business: $299 per year</li> </ul> <p>It's tough to beat free, though if you're serious about building a website, there are several perks to upgrading to the Premium tier, such as more storage (13GB versus 3GB), no ads, the ability to store videos, a custom domain, and advanced customizations. The Business tier ups the ante with over 50 premium themes included, e-commerce functionality, unlimited space, and live chat support.</p> <p>Since Wordpress offers a free tier, it should get the automatic win, right? Not so fast. That's certainly an advantage, but to build more than a glorified blog, the paid tiers are the way to go. And when comparing the paid tiers, it's really a wash, as both offer a good value for the money.</p> <p><strong>Winner: Tie</strong></p> <h3>ROUND 4: Flexibility</h3> <p>With Squarespace, it doesn't take a lot of time to build a good-looking website: You pick a template, fill in the blanks and/or replace the existing content with your own, and you're all set. It takes a bit longer to build a comparable looking website with Wordpress, but while the learning curve is steeper, the level of fine-grain control runs deeper. There are more templates and themes, tens of thousands of plugins to play with, and it's open source. If you're an experienced website builder or programmer, you can get lost in customizations. And if you're relatively new to the world of website building, you'll find that as you grow, there's more you can do in Wordpress—the ceiling isn't just higher, it's pretty much lifted altogether.</p> <p><strong>Winner: Wordpress</strong></p> <h3>ROUND 5: Support</h3> <p>Wordpress claims it's powering 23 percent of the web. That may or may not be accurate, but there's no disputing its immense popularity. And since Wordpress is so popular, there's a vast amount of knowledge and support out there, both on Wordpress's own support forum and in various corners of the web. There are video tutorials on YouTube, forums for help with plugin coding, and guides galore.</p> <p>The amount of support for Squarespace isn't as robust, though like the service as a whole, it's about convenience and ease-of-use. You can browse through topics in the knowledgebase, seek community-sourced answers, view several video tutorials, and even go to one-on-one workshops if you happen to live in New York.</p> <p>We're inclined to call it a draw in this category, and if we revisit the topic in another year or so, perhaps we will. But for now, Wordpress again benefits from being the popular kid on the block—there are simply more resources available to Wordpress users in need of help.</p> <h3>And the winner is...</h3> <p><img src="/files/u69/wordpress.jpg" alt="Wordpress" title="Wordpress" width="620" height="469" /></p> <p>If you're new or simply inexperienced with website building, you're likely to have an easier time with Squarespace. You're also apt to outgrow (eventually) what it has to offer. That's not to say Squarespace isn't a good option, or even a great one, but <strong>Wordpress is simply better</strong> with more templates and themes, plugins for nearly every situation, and an extensive support network. The learning curve is steeper, but the reward for toughing it out is the ability to build a website exactly as you want it, without compromises.</p> features Head 2 Head squarespace website wordpress Features Thu, 16 Apr 2015 21:49:30 +0000 Paul Lilly 29500 at Here’s What GTA V Looks Like Maxed-Out on 3 Titan Xs <!--paging_filter--><h3>Benchmark info and 4K pictures galore</h3> <p>GTA V finally launched for the PC yesterday. Given that GTA IV was a resource hog of a port coupled with <a href="" target="_blank">Rockstar's numerous delays of the PC version</a>, we thought we would run the game through its paces using the beefiest rig we had in the Lab. We opted for Origin PC’s new Millenimum Genesis PC, which is equipped with not one or two GeForce Titan Xs, but three of those water-cooled bad boys in SLI. The system also has Intel’s 4960X CPU. Suffice it to say that, on paper, it’s a beast of a machine (Look for the full review of the rig soon).</p> <h3><img src="/files/u154082/gta5_2015-04-14_12-21-42-37.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></h3> <p>Rockstar says you should be able to run the game at <a href="" target="_blank">4K with modest setting using a reasonable graphics card</a>, which seemed like a bit of a challenge to us. So, we decided to not only run the game at 4K, but also turn up all the bells and whistles. Yep, we turned every dial up to 11.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;">Settings used:&nbsp;</span></strong></p> <ul> <li>Resolution 3840x2160&nbsp;</li> <li>FXAA: On</li> <li>MSAA: X4</li> <li>Nvidia TXAA: On</li> <li>Pause Game on Focus Loss: On</li> <li>Population Density: Max</li> <li>Population Variety: Max</li> <li>Distance Scaling: Max</li> <li>Texture Quality: Very High</li> <li>Shader Quality: Very High</li> <li>Shadow Quality: Very High</li> <li>Reflection Quality: Very High</li> <li>Water Quality: Very High</li> <li>Particles Quality: Very High</li> <li>Grass Quality: Very High</li> <li>Soft Shadows: Nvidia PCSS</li> <li>Post FX: Very High</li> <li>Motion Blur Strength: Off</li> <li>In-Game Depth of Field Effects: On</li> <li>Anistropic Filtering: X16</li> <li>Ambient Occlusion: High</li> <li>Tessellation: High</li> <li>Long Shaodws: On</li> <li>High Resolution Shadows: On</li> <li>High Detail Streaming While Flying: On</li> <li>Extended Distance Scaling: Max</li> <li>Extended Shadows Distance: Max</li> </ul> <p>As you may expect, the game looks gorgeous. The character models are average, but it’s the vast cityscapes, water, and god-rays that really shine (pardon the pun). With everything cranked up, there’s tons of depth-of-field effects, textures look sharp, and shadows blur out realistically. When it comes to sheer fidelity, this isn’t a bad port at all, and looks noticeably better than the game’s console counterparts. In some instances, the landscape looks real. You can check out the visuals for yourself with our screens below. (Please pardon the compression that our CMS inflicts on the images).</p> <p>But how does the game run with everything cranked up? There's room for improvement. We played the game with Fraps turned on and also ran the game’s somewhat hidden benchmark. Under the benchmark, the frame counter displayed framerates fluctuating wildly from the low 50s to the low 30s. When we played Franklin's first mission using Fraps, the frame counter recorded average framerates in the low 40s. And yes, these are with the <a href="" target="_blank">latest graphics drivers</a> tuned for GTA V. There is a possibility that Rockstar will release patches that will increase performance, and there’s also the same possibility that Nvidia might improve its drivers for GTA V/GTA V SLI scaling in the future, but at this point in time, it runs a little sluggish with 3 Titan X GPUs. While it's playable, if you have a comparable setup, we’d advise turning down the knobs a bit to get better framerates.&nbsp;</p> <p>Are you playing GTA V on PC? If so, what do you think of Rockstar’s port? Let us know in the comments below.&nbsp;</p> <p><em><strong>UPDATE:</strong> Due to a driver update issue, SLI was originally disabled when we first ran this story. We have since re-ran the benchmark with SLI enabled and the frame rates have improved noticeably.&nbsp;</em></p> 4k benchmark gta v maxed out pc pictures screenshots Titan X News Features Tue, 14 Apr 2015 21:34:23 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29736 at Cheap PC case review roundup <!--paging_filter--><h3 style="text-align: left;">Budget doesn't have to mean junk</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Cheap cases. They’re not as scary as the phrase implies, even though we acknowledge that the lower end of the case spectrum can deliver some real clunkers. Thankfully, none of the cases in our roundup this month fit that profile. In fact, we’re seeing a number of features previously reserved for pricier cases start to grace more inexpensive models.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.feat_case.opener.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Think about it: Cases, under $100, designed specifically for liquid cooling? We’ve always felt that someone willing to plunk down hundreds of bucks for top-quality liquid-cooling parts—and suffer the hours of setup (and soggy components) that can come from one’s adventures in liquid-cooling land—would want to pick up a more expensive case to accommodate their build. Not anymore! One of the cases in our roundup practically screams “stash a radiator in me.”</p> <p>Of course, not all is perfect in the world of computer chassis. It’s tough to find that diamond in the rough—a case that comes with all the features we think you should have, and only a few (or no) annoyances. None of the cases in our roundup fit that profile, but a few come quite close. Give them a read; perhaps you’ll find that you can deal with their imperfections for their oh-so-low prices.</p> <h2>What Makes a Great (Cheap) Case</h2> <p style="text-align: left;">We teased the concept of “a diamond in the rough,” so it’s time to shine a light on all the facets that make a cheap chassis sparkle. There’s not that much, but you’d be surprised at the little details that make for a more pleasurable building experience when cases get them right, versus when they don’t.</p> <p>First up, we’re big fans of cases that use as few normal screws as possible. We don’t like having to bust out the screwdriver to install parts and pieces if we can avoid it. Fewer screws also usually means fewer parts to lose once the build is done. Thumbscrews are much preferred if screws have to be used at all, but we love cases that use simple locking mechanisms for add-in cards, the case’s side panels, and 5.25-inch devices (preferably, 5.25-inch bay locking mechanisms that you can remove, as some two-bay devices won’t play nicely in these situations).</p> <p>As for hard drives, we like either trays or rails. We’re slightly biased toward the former, especially if they allow one to mount 3.5-inch hard drives or 2.5-inch SSDs in a typical 3.5-inch bay. That said, we’re not opposed to cases that do things a little differently—like, say, building in a combination mount that allows you to switch a chunk of bays between supporting 2.5-inch or 3.5- inch drives.</p> <p>The popularity of SSDs and price drops have meant that even cheaper cases are starting to include “hidden mounts” for 2.5-inch drives behind one’s motherboard tray. The more the merrier, we say; you can never have enough secret storage. Ample cable mounting holes are a key part of today’s cases. We need to see at least two big chunks taken out of the motherboard tray to the right of the motherboard itself, as well as one near the power supply. Up top, we’d really prefer a tiny, easy-to-access hole to string our 12V through.</p> <p>We have no opinion on a case’s materials per se, so long as the case has been designed so that there aren’t any pokey, sharp edges—bleeding on one’s PC is never fun, as this writer learned from his time in the Maximum PC Lab. Aluminum or steel is fine. Even a case with all sorts of plastic trappings on the outside is OK, so long as it looks good. What we find ugly, you might love (and vice versa).</p> <p>Fans play greatly into a case’s cooling and a esthetics. W here p ossible, we prefer larger fans (less noise, more air), or at least ample opportunities to stash 12cm or 14cm fans in the same mounting spot—in case you only have the former, but want to upgrade to the latter later. Fan controllers are starting to creep into cheaper chassis; where possible, we’d like the ability to control more fans than just what a case typically comes with (two, in most bare-bones setups). Dials are great, but we’ll accept a “low, medium, high” switch—or even just a two-speed setting.</p> <p>Chassis can come with all sorts of unique little twists on conventional building—sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. In general, these are the kinds of things we look for in an awesome case (but we definitely don’t say no to crazy extras, like hotswap mounts for one’s hard drives). A good computer case is kind of like the Supreme Court’s definition of pornography: You’ll know it when you see it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="" width="590" height="443" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>The Cooler Master N600 isn’t perfect, but it has a number of the features we look for in a standout budget case.</em></p> <h2>Zalman Z12 Plus</h2> <p><em><strong>More SSDs! More fan control!</strong></em></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Simple. Easy. Effective. We’re big fans of most of what Zalman does with its Z12 Plus chassis. Its price feels a bit high for what it offers but, on the plus side, there’s nothing about the chassis that’s a deal-breaker.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.feat_case.zalman.jpg" width="550" height="333" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">The plastic-and-steel mid-tower case comes in at just around 15.5 pounds in weight, making it a pleasant but not overbearing foot-and-a-half-tall chassis for stuffing under (or on) your desk. We had no issues removing its windowed side panel (thumbscrews) and throwing in a motherboard, save for the curious omission of three of the bottom standoffs (which you have to install yourself).</p> <p>Our test video card, an (aging) Nvidia Geforce GTX 480, fit without issue in the Z12 Plus. While it did cover a bit of one of the Z12 Plus’s four cable management holes, Zalman’s design offers a little breathing room between the 10.5-inch card’s edge and the start of the 5.25-inch bays.</p> <p>Installing hard drives into the case’s five standard 3.5-inch bays (and one 2.5/3.5/5.25-inch conversion bay) isn’t a screwless process, but it’s still simple: Four screws and four rubber anti-vibration rubber grommets go directly into your&nbsp; hard drive’s mounting holes. Slide the drive into one of the bays, and a preinstalled locking mechanism catches the screws and holds your drive in place.</p> <p>Any 5.25-inch devices you want to stash into the case’s four standard bays require the normal screw treatment; you also have to pop off the case’s front panel, which features a small amount of sound-dampening foam over all its mesh sections. Curiously, the thin bay covers that one normally just twists off of a case are actually screwed into the Z12 Plus. We’re not quite sure why that’s necessary, and it does add an extra step to an otherwise easy installation.</p> <p>The case comes with three fans preinstalled: a 12cm front blue LED fan, a similarly sized (and colored) top LED fan, and a 12cm rear fan (no lights). Presumably, Zalman wants you to hook the two LED fans into the provided connectors for the case’s high/low fan controller. If you’re big on looks, know that adjusting the voltage of the fans is also going to adjust the brightness of the LEDs.</p> <p>Rounding out the Z12 Plus’s attributes are four USB ports (two USB 3.0 on top; two 2.0 on the lower-right of the case’s front), a hidden installation point on the rear of the motherboard tray for one 2.5-inch drive, and two rubberized holes for water-cooling tubes on the case’s rear.</p> <p>The Z12 Plus is a no-nonsense kind of a case. While we wish we had more room for 2.5-inch drives, and want to hook up more fans to its built-in controller than it allows by default, these issues don’t significantly detract from the case’s quality. Unless, of course, you’re looking to stash a ton of SSDs in your new system.</p> <h3>Verdict: 7</h3> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>(+)</em> Good amount of space; great cable management; ample 3.5-inch slots.<br /><em>(-)</em> Limited SSD support; would prefer drive rails over screws; a few too many 5.25-inch bays for our liking.</p> <p>Price: $90, street</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h2>Cooler Master N600</h2> <p style="text-align: left;"><em><strong>Great for liquids, not for air (or SSDs)</strong></em>.</p> <p>We appreciate the sheer versatility of Cooler Master’s N600 chassis. It’s not a case we’d give to beginners, but those of you who don’t mind rolling up your shirt sleeves when installing your mid-level system will mostly enjoy your time spent.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.feat_case.coolermaster.jpg" width="550" height="310" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Our major dissatisfactions with the case were cosmetic, though you’ll want to focus on fixing them up given the giant, acrylic window on the case’s side panel. The case’s cooling is adequate, but not overly impressive: a single, non-LED 12cm fan on the rear, and a single, white LED 12cm fan preinstalled on the case’s front. A built-in fan controller allows you to run the two fans at a low or a high setting; doing so affects the brightness of the front LED fan. (You can also switch the LED fan’s light on and off via a hard-to-push switch on the case’s front). The front LED fan doesn’t provide nearly as much light as we’d hoped for. A rear LED fan to boost the lighting would have been much preferred. Our front LED fan was also a bit loud on its high setting, more than we’d want to hear under our desk.</p> <p>The case’s three 5.25-inch drive bays are entirely screwless—we like. The case also comes with three 3.5-inch drive bays built into the chassis, but supports an additional four more, depending on how you set up an additional 3.5/2.5-inch “combo cage.” You can’t have both, however; set the cage up for SSDs, and you’re limiting yourself to just three 3.5-inch hard drives. Go for seven 3.5-inch drives, and the only other place you can install an SSD is via a two-screw fixture on the rear of the motherboard tray.</p> <p>The combo cage, which faces front-toback, can be completely removed if you value cooling over storage. Do that, and you can attach a 24cm radiator to the case’s right side (there’s also space for a 24cm radiator on the case’s inside-top, and room for a smaller 12cm radiator on the rear). However, we do wish that Cooler Master carved out more room for SSDs; you can’t convert the existing 3.5-inch bays into 2.5-inch bays, and we’d hate to be stuck with one SSD slot if we liquid-cooled.</p> <p>We also wish Cooler Master had carved an additional rubberized hole in the motherboard tray for cable stringing, as our GTX 480 video card blocks the top half of the tray’s middle hole (of three total). On the plus side, the cables to the front-panel connectors (including its two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports) are nice and long, which helps cable management a bit.</p> <p>We wouldn’t try to stuff our top-shelf system into this case, but the N600 makes for a good middle-of-the-road chassis; we love the support for liquid cooling, just not the built-in air.</p> <h3>Verdict: 8</h3> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>(+)</em> Plenty of space for 3.5- and 2.5-inch hard drives; very liquid cooling–friendly; lots of USB ports.<br /><em>(-)</em> Poor case lighting; a bit loud when fans cranked up to “high;” could use another “hidden” SSD mount or two.</p> <p>Price: $80, street</p> <h2>Rosewill Blackhawk</h2> <p style="text-align: left;"><em><strong>Let’s play whack-a-Molex</strong></em>.</p> <p>We enjoy most of what Rosewill has done with its $100 Blackhawk case. Many of the design features are what you’d likely see in more expensive chassis, but there are a few areas where Rosewill appears to cut corners—or just misunderstand solid case design. At the price you’re paying, you could do better.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.feat_case.rosewill.jpg" width="550" height="355" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">The case’s tinted, arrow-shaped side panel window looks lovely; it’s a refreshing change of pace from the simple clear acrylic we often see. On the inside, we love that Rosewill includes a Velcro strap to secure your power supply to the case (and reduce noise and vibration). Standoffs come preinstalled for an ATX motherboard, and the tray itself has five rubber holes for cable management.</p> <p>When you put a motherboard in, however, it mostly covers the tiny hole Rosewill sticks in the tray’s upper-left corner— presumably designed to stuff a 4- or 8-pin ATX12V connector through. You’ll either have to really wedge that cable around your motherboard or you’ll have to shoot it across your motherboard from one of the right-most rubber holes, which is hardly a good-looking solution. The case’s three drive bays (two drive trays each, which support 3.5- and 2.5-inch drives) can be removed in various configurations, should you be sporting an extralong video card or want to try and slap a 24cm radiator in the front of the chassis (occupied by two 12cm blue LED fans). A 14cm blue LED fan sits on the case’s top, joined by a 12cm fan on the case’s rear and side (both non-LED). If that sounds like a lot of cooling, it is; the case is at about a medium level of noise when they’re all fired up, though the blue glow looks great through the case’s side window.</p> <p>Unfortunately, only one of the fans uses a three-pin connector. The rest all use Molex connectors for power, which means that you have no way of actually controlling their speed without an adapter of your own. In a system that runs five fans out of the box, a fan controller (or some way to control volume/speed) would be much preferred.</p> <p>Installing a 5.25-inch device is seemingly easy, though we had trouble getting our optical drive into the top of the case’s&nbsp; four free bays. The wiring for the Blackhawk’s (awesome) front-panel connectors—four USB 2.0 ports, two USB 3.0 ports, and a hotswap SATA connection—got in the way of our optical drive, and it took a lot of wedging to get the wires into the case’s top and our optical drive into place. Locking it in was easy.</p> <p>Rosewill’s Blackhawk offers plenty of space for building, and installing a system into the case isn’t that problematic. Added together, however, this case’s minor flaws start to make its price look all the larger.</p> <h3>Verdict: 6</h3> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>(+)</em> Lovely tinted window; plenty of air cooling; SATA hotswap; great aesthetic.<br /><em>(-)</em> Decent amount of noise; no fan controller; most fans use Molex; top 5.25-inch bay difficult to work with.</p> <p>Price: $100, street</p> <h2>Enermax iVektor</h2> <p style="text-align: left;"><em><strong>Stylish and low cost, to boot.</strong></em></p> <p>Enermax’s iVektor might get the company sued by Apple. In the meantime, you owe it to yourself to give this svelte, smooth midtower chassis a try. Minus a little airflow, which we’re happy to upgrade, this inexpensive chassis offers much.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.feat_case.ivector.jpg" width="550" height="355" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">After popping off the tinted, windowed side panel (thumbscrews), we first noticed just how roomy the seemingly small&nbsp; Vektor actually is. Motherboard standoffs come preinstalled, and the case’s right-most combination drive bracket is preconfigured to support four 2.5-inch drives. Unscrew its left-most support and move it to the 3.5-inch configuration, and Enermax says you can stuff three 3.5-inch drives in the space. We installed four, and the entire configuration still gave us a smidge of room between the bracket and a 10.5-inch long video card. Three fixed drive bays below the aforementioned bracket support 3.5-inch drives only, and there’s no other place to stash an SSD unless you configure said bracket into 2.5-inch bays. Spring-loaded covers on the front panel can be removed without popping the panel off, which makes installing devices into the case’s three 5.25-inch bays a breeze.</p> <p>A very tiny cable-management hole in the motherboard tray’s upper-left corner doesn’t leave much to work with for your system’s 4- or 8-pin ATX12V connector. Two holes to the right of the motherboard are much larger, as is the giant hole to the right of where one stashes the power supply. The space between the rear of the tray and the motherboard’s side panel is ample, more so than most cases we’ve looked at—happy cable stuffing!</p> <p>The case’s add-in card brackets use real screws, not thumbscrews, so get ready to bust out the tools to install your add-on cards. It’s a mild letdown, but Enermax’s insistence on providing rails for both one’s 3.5- and 2.5-inch drives makes up for it. A bigger annoyance is the system’s cooling: a single 12cm blue LED fan in the front and a 12cm fan in the rear. They’re both wired to a “high, nothing, or low” fan controller whose switch sits on the top of the case near its two USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports.</p> <p>Thanks to foam padding that covers the case’s mesh parts, the iVektor is very, very quiet when the fans are on “low.” You’ll give up airflow on low, though. Kick the fans up to high, and you’re increasing the volume to a slightly more noticeable amount. It makes us wish Enermax opted for 14cm fan mounts instead—the price one pays for a smaller-sized chassis.</p> <p>Enermax’s iVektor might not be perfect, but it’s smooth—literally. A lovely external aesthetic, spacious interior, and ample drive support almost makes us forget a few of its tiny flaws.</p> <h3>Verdict: 8</h3> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>(+)</em> Lots of space on the inside; ample USB connectivity; good cable management; plenty of drive bays.<br /><em>(-)</em> Cooling so-so; lacks motherboard-tray mounts for SSDs; normal screws (not thumbscrews) for PCI slot covers.</p> <p>Price: $80, street</p> <h2>Enermax Coenus ECA3190A</h2> <p style="text-align: left;"><em><strong>More than meets the eye? No, not really.</strong></em></p> <p>Enermax’s Coenus chassis (specifically, the ECA3290A) copies a number of features from the company’s iVektor lineup (reviewed on previous page). Or perhaps the iVektor was an upgrade from the Coenus. Regardless, the things we liked about the iVektor continue to work in the Coenus’s favor. However, a few less-than-ideal differences allow the iVektor cases to leave their Coenus peers in the dust.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.54.feat_case.jpg" width="550" height="310" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but we’re not big fans of the chunky, gray plastic paneling that Enermax slaps all over the front and top of the ECA3290A. It looks a bit like a child’s toy enlarged to extreme proportions; the case’s front reminds us of a Transformer logo, and it makes the whole aesthetic look a bit juvenile. It’s the kind of look we’d go for if we were building a system for a middle-schooler (or a lateblooming college student).</p> <p>The case’s insides are great to build in: Motherboard standoffs come preinstalled, all drive bays come with rails for easy installation (three 3.5-inch, and a combo bracket that fits four 2.5- or 3.5-inch drives), and the case’s 5.25-inch bays use a handy locking mechanism to secure your devices. You get two cable-routing holes on the side of the motherboard tray and one larger one to the right of where the power supply goes. More importantly, there’s a ton of room behind the motherboard tray for your cables; stash away!</p> <p>The tiny cable-management hole in the tray’s upper-left corner for your 4- or 8-pin ATX12V connector can be a little tricky to work with, but it’s manageable. The case’s add-in card slots all use screws, not thumbscrews, so you’ll definitely need a screwdriver on hand to complete your system build. Unfortunately, the ECA3290A doesn’t use the fun spring-locking 5.25-inch bay covers found on its iVektor cases, so you’ll have to pop off the front paneling completely just to install your optical drive (or what-have-you).</p> <p>The ECA3290A only comes with two USB 3.0 ports; the iVektor has those and two extra front-panel USB 2.0 ports. It also has more foam covering its mesh areas on the case’s front and top, which helps reduce the noise of its front and rear 12cm fans a bit. The ECA3290A comes with the same fan configuration, sans the iVektor’s fan controller, so there’s no way to quiet them via the case itself. That said, we’re talking about fairly minor acoustic differences—nothing that made us want to cover our ears.</p> <p>All in all, the Coenus and iVektor cases hover right around the same price point (depending on where you’re shopping). We’d rather take our money to the betterlooking, better-performing iVektor chassis. Leave this little Coenus cousin behind.</p> <h3>Verdict: 6</h3> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>(+)</em> Lots of space on the inside; good cable management; plenty of drive bays.<br /><em>(-)</em> Only two USB ports; horrible external look; no fan controller; must remove front panel to install 5.25-inch devices.</p> <p>Price: $70, street</p> Cooler Master N600 Enermax Coenus ECA3190A Enermax iVektor pc Review rosewill blackhawk Zalman Z12 Plus News From the Magazine Features Tue, 14 Apr 2015 20:37:26 +0000 David Murphy 29519 at A Brief History of Videogame Virtual Reality <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/oculus-rift-crescent-bay1.jpg" alt="Oculus Rift Featured Image" title="Oculus Rift Featured Image" width="250" height="142" style="float: right;" />From the Virtual Boy to the Oculus Rift</span></h3> <p>According to <a href=" reality" target="_blank">Merriam-Webster</a>, virtual reality is: “an artificial world that consists of images and sounds created by a computer and that is affected by the actions of a person who is experiencing it.” We like to think of it in simpler terms and define virtual reality as: any immersive experience that evokes presence; that is, the “state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing.” Unfortunately, virtual reality has a checkered past with products of all types claiming to provide a VR experience that ultimately fell far short. Thanks to modern technology, VR may very well be feasible within the next few years and products like the Oculus Rift, Project Morpheus, and the HTC Vive may be just what VR has needed. There’s an entire history of virtual reality outside of video games, but to keep things manageable we’ll focus just on VR as it pertains to immersive video games.</p> htc vive nintendo wii oculus rift project morpheus TrackIR virtual boy virtual reality vr Features Mon, 13 Apr 2015 17:05:00 +0000 Ben Kim 29663 at 7 Technologies That Have Made Our Lives Worse <!--paging_filter--><h3><strong>The tech may be new, but it hasn't helped us very much</strong></h3> <p>Technology certainly has made our lives better in many capacities. Near limitless knowledge and entertainment are at our very fingertips; that said, however, technology has also made our lives worse in a lot of ways.</p> <p>Below we highlight seven heinous devices, and touch upon how their offensive qualities. Know of some other tech gadgets that have detracted from our quality of life? Let us know what they are in the comments below!</p> Smart TV technologies that have made our lives worse Features Fri, 10 Apr 2015 20:26:27 +0000 Maximum PC Staff 28882 at Choosing the Best AMD Graphics Card <!--paging_filter--><h3>Prefer the Red Team over the Green Team? We’ve got your back</h3> <p>There was a time when a dozen different companies were selling video cards and vying for your hard-earned cash. But, at least when it comes to gaming, the field has narrowed to just two: Nvidia and AMD. If you’re just doing spreadsheets, surfing the web, and playing the occasional Flash game, you’ll be fine with integrated graphics. But if you spend a lot of time shooting, racing, and flying, a dedicated graphics card is the way to go.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">We covered Nvidia a couple of days ago</a>, and now <strong>we’re turning our crosshairs to AMD. What follows is a streamlined buying guide.</strong> No benchmark charts, diagrams, or spec sheets. We’ll link to places where you can get that stuff if you want, but here is where we condense the product line into a few pages of advice. Dig in!</p> <p><strong>Options #1, #2, and #3: Radeon R7 260, 260X, and 265</strong></p> <p>First, we’re looking at the cards in the $100–$130 range. Overall, AMD has a denser collection of options than Nvidia. This creates some overlap, so we’re combining these cards into one tier that’s roughly equivalent to the Nvidia GeForce GTX 750 and 750 Ti tier. Like that pair, these AMD cards are fine for playing at 1080p most of the time.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/r7_265.jpg" alt="Sapphire Radeon R7 265" title="Sapphire Radeon R7 265" width="620" height="473" style="vertical-align: middle;" /></p> <p><a title="Sapphire Radeon R7 265 review" href="">We’d recommend the R7 265 with two gigabytes of VRAM to get the best performance.</a> Naturally, you’ll find those at the top of the price range, but we think it’s worth the extra bucks. These three Radeon cards also need only one 6-pin PCI Express cable, so you should be fine with a power supply in the 400–500 watt range. If you have around $200 to spend, though, there are better options from both AMD and Nvidia.</p> <p><strong>Options #4 and #5: Radeon R9 270 and 270X</strong></p> <p>Performance-wise, these cards are roughly equivalent to the Radeon HD 7850 and 7870, and the Nvidia GeForce GTX 670 and 760. So their price range is about $130–$180, if you include mail-in rebates. Like the other R7 cards, we recommend 2GB of VRAM for the best gaming experience at 1080p. These GPUs also will let you use higher visual settings than the R7 cards mentioned earlier. However, the 270 and 270X need two PCI Express power cables, and that’s rare to find with power supply units that are rated for less than 500 watts. So, you may need to upgrade your PSU or factor a more expensive one into your budget. Overall, we’d go with the 270X for a little extra oomph, unless you can afford something even speedier.</p> <p><strong>Options #6, #7, and #8: Radeon R9 280, 285, and 280X</strong></p> <p>The 280 and 280X are basically respun versions of the Radeon HD 7950 with Boost, and the HD 7970 GHz Edition. Which are also roughly comparable to a GTX 680 and 770. The 280 and 280X have 3GB of VRAM, which is a lot for 1080p, but not unwelcome. In fact, it’s enough to handle 1440p fairly smoothly, though you might want a second card in a Crossfire configuration to keep up at that resolution. The 285, however, has 2GB of VRAM and uses a newer, more power-efficient GPU core. Its performance falls in between the 280 and 280X, but because it generates a lot less heat, you can find it in sizes designed for a mini-ITX case.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/strix_285.jpg" alt="Asus Strix Radeon R9 285" title="Asus Strix Radeon R9 285" width="620" height="451" style="vertical-align: middle;" /></p> <p>It can also be much quieter, with some versions not even spinning up their fans until the GPU hits a certain temperature. It uses one PCI Express cable, while the 280 and 280X need two. Overall, <a href=";ie=UTF8&amp;node=10510329011&amp;pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&amp;pf_rd_s=merchandised-search-2&amp;pf_rd_r=010AS36QFWGFNJAZTZ3T&amp;pf_rd_t=101&amp;pf_rd_p=2005577422&amp;pf_rd_i=8588809011">our favorite at this tier is the 285</a>, despite having less VRAM, because it can run cooler, quieter, and in a wider variety of cases.</p> <h4 style="text-align: right;"><a href=",1">Click here to see the rest of your options, and the overall winner</a></h4> <hr /> <p><strong>Options #9 and #10: Radeon R9 290 and 290X</strong></p> <p>These are AMD’s top-performing single-GPU cards, and their performance will be within spitting distance of a GeForce GTX 970 and 980. The GTX 980 is a consistently faster card overall, but some gamers still opt for the 290X because it’s about $200 cheaper. However, the 290 and 290X need a lot of watts. We’d recommend 600 or more watts for one of these cards, and 850 watts or more for 2-way Crossfire.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/tri-x_290x_0.jpg" alt="Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X" title="Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X" width="620" height="284" style="vertical-align: middle;" /></p> <p>We’d also definitely avoid the “reference” cards, because they run quite hot and noisy. <a title="Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X review" href="">Cooling designs like Sapphire’s Tri-X</a> or Vapor-X, ASUS’s DirectCU II, Gigabyte’s Windforce 3X, MSI’s TwinFrozr, and XFX’s Double Dissipation are highly recommended to keep these cards running quietly and relatively cool. If you’re okay with those stipulations, the 290 and 290X will give you a lot of bang for your buck—about $250 for the 290 and about $350 for the 290X.</p> <p><strong>Option #11: Radeon R9 295X2</strong></p> <p>This card is basically two R9 290X GPUs on a single card. Since these GPUs need a respectable amount of cooling, it should come as no surprise that the 295X2 has a closed-loop liquid cooler (CLC) built into it. This uses a 120mm radiator (bundled with a fan) that you must install on a fan mount somewhere in your case. The card is also 12 inches long. <a title="Radeon R9 295X2 review" href="">And it's got the break-neck performance to justify all this.</a></p> <p><span style="color: #888888;"><img src="/files/u160416/295x2.jpg" alt="Radeon R9 295X2" title="Radeon R9 295X2" width="620" height="304" /></span></p> <p>So while it will get you more performance than a single GTX Titan X, for a few hundred dollars less, it needs a lot of real estate and a lot of power. As we mentioned earlier, an 850-watt power supply (or more) is highly recommended when dealing with multiple 290 or 290X GPUs. That said, the card runs pretty quietly, thanks to the CLC, and it takes up half as many motherboard slots as a 2-way Crossfire config. Like the Titan X, there are no third-party cooling designs, but the “reference” version here is quite good.</p> <p>You may sometimes see this card listed as having “8GB,” but Crossfire, like SLI, mirrors your VRAM, instead of letting you add the two card’s VRAM together. In practice, you will have a capacity of 4GB, just like the R9 290 and 290X, and the GTX 970 and 980. The GTX Titan X has a whopping 12GB, but we haven’t encountered a game or screen resolution where that felt like a necessity. 4GB is fine even with a 4K display (though you’d still want multiple GPUs to smoothly game at that point).</p> <p><strong>And the Winner Is...</strong></p> <p>Like Nvidia, AMD has a wide range of options that make picking a single winner difficult. The R7 265 is our pick at the entry level, and the R9 295X2 packs a ton of performance into about $700, enough to get decent frame rates at 4K and definitely plenty for 1440p. If there were a happy medium here, <strong>we’d go with the R9 290X as the best overall AMD GPU</strong>, provided that you get one with a large heatsink and multiple fans, and you have a sufficient power supply unit.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/r9_290.jpg" alt="MSI Radeon R9 290X" title="MSI Radeon R9 290X" width="620" height="452" style="vertical-align: middle;" /></p> <p>As far as PSUs go, we’ve had good experiences with EVGA, Corsair, Antec, Enermax, Silverstone, and SeaSonic. That’s not an all-inclusive list, just the brands that come to mind most often when we need a reliable PSU. The Rosewill Hive and Capstone have good reps too, but we haven’t had as much direct experience with those. You should expect to need two 8-pin PCI Express cables, and possibly an additional 6-pin connection if you want top-end cards like MSI’s “Lightning” edition. But if you can manage that, we think it’s worth it.</p> amd ati best hardware buying guide gpu graphics card radeon shopping guide Features Thu, 09 Apr 2015 20:23:38 +0000 Tom McNamara 29715 at Choosing the Best Nvidia Graphics Card <!--paging_filter--><h3>Doing a little GPU shopping? We know what to put on your list</h3> <p>When you’re trying to figure out the next PC upgrade you should buy, there are at least two ways to go about it. Some people like going through lots of pages of benchmarks, analysis, galleries of the component in various states of disassembly, forum debate, and pictures of fluffy kittens. And that’s great, when you have the time. But not everyone does. For people who want a quicker breakdown of choices like <strong>which Nvidia video card you should buy</strong>, we can condense that into just a couple of pages. We’ll give you a quick tour through the various choices that you have at different price points, and what the pros and cons are at each stage. Then we’ll select an overall winner.</p> <p>For simplicity’s sake, we’ll be sticking to the current "Maxwell” generation of Nvidia’s cards. It has some features not available in the older Kepler generation, like Multi-Frame Sample Anti-Aliasing (MFAA), which is a highly efficient way of smoothing out jagged edges on 3D objects, and Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI), which creates shadows with a degree of realism that we hadn’t seen occurring in real-time before. So that means that our breakdown will be sticking to the GeForce GTX 750, 750 Ti, 960, 970, 980, and the recently released Titan X.</p> <p>If you’re wondering why we’re not doing a breakdown of AMD cards, don’t worry—that’s coming soon.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>Choices #1 and #2: GTX 750 and GTX 750 Ti</strong></p> <p>We’re combining these two cards because of their overall similarity. These are the entry-level enthusiast cards; the 750 comes in at about $100, and the Ti flavor starts at about $125. These are positioned as the next step up from integrated graphics. You are assisted by the fact that the regular GTX 750 does not even require a PCI Express power cable. It gets all the power it needs from the slot it’s plugged into, which provides up to 75 watts. Although that’s just average for an incandescent light bulb, it’s plenty to get some respectable gaming performance at medium settings. A few versions of the 750 Ti require a PCIe cable, but you still shouldn’t need serious power; a 400-watt power supply will be just fine.<img src="/files/u160416/evga960.jpg" width="620" height="499" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>If this is the kind of card that you can afford, we recommend going for the 750 Ti, since it will give you some extra oomph needed to hit that magic mark of 60 frames per second in your games. And we definitely recommend the versions with 2GB of VRAM instead of 1GB, since current 3D games will happily take advantage of the additional capacity. Since these are entry-level cards, we can’t declare them as the "best," but <a title="GeForce GTX 750 Ti benchmarks" href="">they’re fine for 1080p gaming most of the time</a>. These two cards are roughly comparable to the AMD Radeon R7 265 or 270.</p> <p><strong>Choice #3: The GTX 960</strong></p> <p>While the GTX 750 and 750 Ti are technically Maxwell cards, they don’t have the full feature set, so they don’t get MFAA and VXGI. So we sometimes refer to the cards above them as "Maxwell 2.0.” The GTX 960 is the least expensive version, setting you back around $200. It comes in 2GB and 4GB versions, with the latter costing around $240. This card’s performance is roughly comparable to AMD’s R9 Radeon 280 or 285. If you want some benchmarks for reference, <a href=",1" target="_blank">we have them in the GTX 960 review here</a>.Like the 750 and 750 Ti, the GTX 960 does not draw a lot of power. You can find versions that use the same 6-pin PCIe connection that some 750 Ti cards do. But some versions need two such connections, in which case you need at least a 500-watt power supply unit—that’s the threshold where PSUs start having multiple PCIe cables. Since they’re power-efficient, they don’t generate much heat, either, so the card can be more compact than before.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/asus-strix-gtx960-dc2oc-2gd5_3d-100563779-orig.jpg" width="620" height="412" /></p> <p>Overall, though, it’s difficult to recommend the GTX 960, because AMD offers comparable performance and power consumption for substantially less money, at least for the 2GB version. The 4GB version can get you somewhat higher framerates, but at $240, it’s not much less than a Radeon R9 290, which has much better performance than both cards. There’s a twist, though: The 290 also needs a lot of juice. We’d recommend a 600-watt power supply for one of those, and 850 watts if you wanted to add a second one to your system for Crossfire.</p> <p><strong>Choices #4 and #5: GTX 970 and 980</strong></p> <p>These are meaningfully different cards, but we’re grouping them together because they came out at the same time. <a title="GeForce GTX 980 review" href="">When the GTX 980 arrived, it was Nvidia’s flagship card</a>—with a flagship price of $550, which hasn’t gone down much since its release in September last year. It’s faster than AMD’s beefiest offering, the Radeon R9 290X, while needing less power and less real estate inside your PC for its cooling system. It comes with 4GB of VRAM and happily makes use of all of that.</p> <p>The GTX 970 is slower across the board and has a funky VRAM management system where the first 3.5GB runs normally and the last 500MB is a bit hobbled, but it also costs about $200 less, and you won’t often encounter scenarios where that 500MB chunk slows things down. Unfortunately, the nature of the 970’s memory system wasn’t clearly communicated to the public, and there’s been some drama.</p> <p>.<img src="/files/u160416/7g0a0209_620_0.jpg" width="620" height="349" style="vertical-align: middle;" /></p> <p>The GTX 970’s biggest enemies, though, are arguably AMD’s R9 290 and 290X. The 290 is just a little bit slower and costs about $80 less, which is getting to be the price for a 250GB SSD. The 290X is a bit faster most of the time, costs about the same, and uses conventional memory management. In fact, at 4K resolution, the 290X is a respectable contender to the GTX 980, (though you’d want two of each to get good framerates at that point). But if you have or plan to have a 500- to 550-watt power supply, the GTX 970 still comes out ahead of AMD’s comparable cards.</p> <h4 style="text-align: right;"><a href=",1">Click here to see the rest of our choices, and the winner</a></h4> <hr /> <p><strong>Choice #6: The GTX Titan X</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal">The Titan series is basically Nvidia’s 800-pound gorilla, an exclamation point at the end of its lineup. <a title="GeForce GTX Titan X review" href=",2">It will get you the best gaming performance that money can buy</a> —but you’d better have enough, because the asking price is a cool $1,000. That’s nearly twice the cost of a GTX 980, and about three times the cost of an R9 290X. But the Titan cards also have huge amounts of VRAM—a staggering 12GB in the case of the Titan X. They draw more power than other Nvidia cards, too, with a TDP of about 250 watts. That’s a measure of its draw when firing on all cylinders, without its clock speeds being manipulated above factory settings.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><img src="/files/u160416/titan_x.jpg" width="620" height="372" /></p> <p>Despite that, the Titan X still fits inside Nvidia’s reference cooling system, with a 10.5 inch card getting air from a single turbine-like intake that pushes all its heat out the back of the case. This design is called a "full shroud.” A partial shroud uses fans to blow air onto a heatsink, but the frame holding the fans is not fully enclosed, so that heat circulates around the case. However, the fans and the heatsink can be much bigger and more effective when not restricted to Nvidia’s reference specs.</p> <p>When you’re in a 250-watt range, that extra flexibility comes in handy, as we’ve seen from AMD’s R9 290 and 290X. The reference versions of these cards were hot and noisy, <a title="Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X review" href="">but you can get cards like the Sapphire Tri-X that run cool and quiet</a> (if you have enough room for a 12-inch card, that is). We mention this because Nvidia does not allow third parties to put alternative coolers on its Titan cards. The only exception it makes is for EVGA’s "Hydro Copper” series. These have pre-installed heatsinks that are designed to hook into custom water-cooling loops. If you want cooling other than what Nvidia has approved, you have to do it yourself, which can be a little stressful, considering the expense of the card itself.</p> <p><strong>And the winner is...</strong></p> <p>It’s tough to pick a single overall winner from such a wide spread of choices, ranging literally from $100 to $1,000. Do you want the best overall performance? Then the Titan X is your guy. But maybe you’re not comfortable with spending that much money, so we go down to the GTX 980. Is it really more than $200 better than a GTX 970, though? We’re not convinced of that. If we had to pick an overall winner that balanced price, performance, and features,&nbsp;<strong>our choice is the GeForce GTX 970</strong>, despite the way that its VRAM has been segmented.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/gigabyte_970.jpg" width="620" height="529" /></p> <p>In our experience, the segmentation just hasn’t produced a subjectively noticeable drop in performance, or even an objectively consistent one—even when scaling up to 4K, where VRAM demands are high. Since it’s also more than $200 cheaper than the GTX 980, you could add a second GTX 970 to your system and spend only about $150 more. Just one will be plenty at 1080p, though. And SLI can be buggy and sometimes doesn’t work at all anyway. And you need the proper amount of power and PCI Express connectors (about 750 watts, four connectors). But it’s a nice option to have.</p> <p>And like the GTX 980, you can get cards that have a variety of cooling options. If you’re into mini-ITX PCs and you don’t have a lot of space to work with, you can also get shrunk-down versions of the 970 from Asus, Gigabyte, and Zotac. They’re much shorter, but they don’t sacrifice any performance. That’s an option that you can’t get from the Radeon R9 290 or 290X, or even the GTX 980. Given the flexibility, performance, and price of the GTX 970, it’s hard to argue for other cards from the Green Team, unless your budget is either extremely tight or extremely loose.</p> best gpu graphics graphics card nvidia PC hardware video News Features Tue, 07 Apr 2015 18:58:48 +0000 Tom McNamara 29705 at Bastron Glass Keyboard: All Form, Little Function <!--paging_filter--><h3>Buy one for looks, and nothing else</h3> <p>These days, keyboards are a dime a dozen. There are scads of options from scads of companies. So, how does one distinguish the good ones from the bad? Unfortunately, much of what makes a keyboard good or bad is a matter of personal preference; a plank that works well for someone else won't necessarily get your typing juices flowing.</p> <p><a title="Bastron site" href="" target="_blank">Enter the Bastron glass keyboard</a>, a keyboard that actually doesn't have any keys at all. The entire typing surface is a single pane of glass, with touch-sensitive points in place of actual key caps. The glass is completely transparent, which is definitely a conversation starter, and the frame is made from aluminum, but only ships in one color: gold.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u191083/bastron1.jpg" alt="Bastron Glass Keyboard" title="Bastron Glass Keyboard" width="620" height="447" /></p> <p>The real attention grabber with the Bastron keyboard though, is its lighting. From inside the top frame, LEDs light up the pane of glass and render the print in the glass visible. The keyboard only ships with two color options as two different keyboard models: blue, and pinkish-purple. You're not able to change the colors on the keyboard, which would have been a nice addition to a product that focuses heavily on aesthetics.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u191083/bastron2.jpg" alt="Bastron Glass Keyboard" title="Bastron Glass Keyboard" width="620" height="465" /></p> <p>So, how about typing performance?</p> <p>Let it be known, this keyboard isn't for typists. It's for those who lean heavily on appearances, which again are subjective, but we see where Bastron is going with this. The problem is that you need to constantly look at the keyboard in order to type. If you try typing without looking down, be sure to run your spell checker! Also, you can't really rest your fingers on the keyboard, as it'll register keystrokes, so your fingers have to be in the air if not in the act of typing. Lastly, Bastron includes a cleaning cloth for the inevitable smudges that you'll make on the keyboard's surface.</p> <p>This article was typed using the Bastron, and it was a frustrating experience. However, if you're one of those still pecking at individual keys with one finger on each hand, this keyboard will do just fine. For most users though, you're better off getting a keyboard, any keyboard, with normal keys.</p> bastron bastron keyboard glass keyboard News Keyboards Features Tue, 07 Apr 2015 18:04:13 +0000 Tuan Nguyen 29703 at How to Remove Windows Malware for Free <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u69/fix.jpg" alt="Fix" title="Fix" width="228" height="151" style="float: right;" />Return a bug-infested PC to pristine condition</h3> <p>Your smartphone begins to vibrate. Not the quick vibration that would indicate it's an incoming text message, but a longer one associated with a phone call. Yes, people still communicate via voice, and thanks to Caller ID, you know it's your parents on the other end. It's been a few weeks since you've heard from them and a funny feeling begins to fill the pit of your stomach. You know what's coming next.</p> <p>A plea for PC help. You listen intently as your folks describe hijacked web searches, a toolbar they don't recognize, and sluggish behavior. Oh, and there are pop-ups. Lots and lots of pop-ups. The list of ailments goes on like a kid reciting a Christmas list to Santa Clause. Only instead of toys and candy, it's rogue programs and malware. It's a good thing you installed TeamViewer because trying to fix the problem over the phone is a time-consuming process that always ends the same way—"I'll be over in the morning."</p> <p>Or maybe you didn't install TeamViewer and you really will be over in the morning. Either way, the task at hand is to rid a system of malware. Perhaps it's your own system, especially if you let little Billy and sweet little Suzy hop on for a spell. Whatever the case may be, don't panic. <strong>Removing malware, while seemingly daunting, isn't all that difficult. Like anything else, you just need the proper know-how and tools, both of which we'll provide here</strong>. Be sure to read the entire guide before embarking on your malware removal journey.</p> <h3>Scrub the Browser(s)</h3> <p>Toolbars, hijacked web searches, and pop-ups are often the result of malware, adware, and or other unwanted-ware that was either installed without permission, or sneaked in through a legitimate application through the fine print, usually when installing a free program. That Spongebob screensaver pack that little Billy installed from a site he can't remember? Yeah, we're guessing he mashed the "Okay" or "Next" button throughout the process, at one point agreeing to change your browser's settings. Cut him some slack, the kid still eats his boogers.</p> <p>Luckily, these are usually easy fixes. Here's what you need to do.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Internet Explorer</strong></span><br />Let's start with Internet Explorer. Click the <strong>Gear (Tools)</strong> icon in the upper-right corner and select <strong>Manage add-ons</strong>. On the left-hand side is a column of categories: Toolbars and Extensions, Search Providers, Accelerators, and Tracking Protection. It's the first three that are of interest, starting with Toolbars and Extensions.</p> <p>See anything you don't recognize? Maybe something like "DealBuddy" or some other descriptor that's a clear giveaway? Click it and select <strong>Remove</strong> or <strong>Disable</strong>. If it's an entry you don't recognize, look it up on Google or your search engine of choice. In most cases, however, unwanted entries will stick out like a pimple on prom night.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/ie_add-ons.jpg" alt="IE Manage Add Ons" title="IE Manage Add Ons" width="620" height="364" /></p> <p>The same goes for the Search Providers category. The only thing you should see is Bing unless you've added another search provider, like Google. We're making this up (we think), but let's say the default entry is "CouponPal." The option to remove is grayed out, but that's only because it's the default search option. Click on one of the other options—Bing, Google, Yahoo, etc.—and punch the <strong>Set as default button</strong>, then return to CouponPal and click <strong>Remove</strong>.</p> <p>Now let's rinse and repeate for the Accelerators category. Is there a rogue entry? Remove or disable it. When you're finished with all these, close out the Manage add-ons window. Return to the <strong>Gear (Tools)</strong> icon and select Internet <strong>Options</strong>. Navigate to the <strong>General</strong> tab if you're not already there and look at the Home page section. Oftentimes adware will replace the default homepage with its own entry, which will load each time you fire up IE. Highlight the hijacked entry and change it to whatever you want, like (c'mon, show us some love!) and click <strong>Apply</strong>. Now hit <strong>OK</strong>, close IE, and reload it. If you haven't missed anything, it should work as new again. And if not, you may have a deeper malware problem, which we'll get to in a moment.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Chrome</strong></span><br />The steps are similar in Chrome. To check if the default search engine's been changed, click the <strong>three horizontal lines (Chrome Menu)</strong> in the upper-right corner and select <strong>Settings</strong>. Under the Search heading, click <strong>Manage search engines</strong>. Hover your mouse over whichever one you want to be the default and click <strong>Make default</strong>. Next, hover over the rogue entry and click the X button on the right to remove it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/chrome_extensions.jpg" alt="Chrome Extensions" title="Chrome Extensions" width="620" height="473" /></p> <p>Also in the Settings menu is an <strong>On startup</strong> heading with three options: Open the New Tab page, Continue where you left off, and Open a specific page or set of pages. If your homepage has been taken over, click the <strong>Set Pages</strong> hyperlink next to the Open a specific page or set of pages option. Go ahead and delete the rogue entry and/or enter whichever page you'd like to load at startup. Alternately, you can use one of the other options.</p> <p>Go back to the Chrome menu and select <strong>More Tools &gt; Extensions</strong>. Here is where you'll see a list of installed add-ons, like Adblock (which we hope you've disabled on Maximum PC—we've gotta eat!), Google Play Music, or whatever. See any entries that shouldn't be there? Click the trash icon to dispose of them.</p> <p>Remember to close Chrome and reload it.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>Firefox</strong></span><br />In Firefox, click the <strong>three horizontal lines (Firefox Menu)</strong> and select <strong>Options</strong>. Under the <strong>Search</strong> tab, you'll see a pull-down menu with your default search option, and under that a list of search engines. Highlight any rogue entries and click <strong>Remove</strong>.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/firefox_options.jpg" alt="Firefox Options" title="Firefox Options" width="590" height="628" /></p> <p>Next, navigate to the <strong>General</strong> tab to make changes to your homepage. If it's been taken over, you'll most likely see the address here. Change it to whatever you want, or click the <strong>Restore to Default</strong> button.</p> <p>Firefox has long supported extensions and plugins. To access them, go back to the <strong>Firefox menu</strong> and select <strong>Add-ons</strong>. Remove any rogue extensions, or if you're unsure, click the disable button to see how it affects your browser. You can always come back and remove it.</p> <p>Following the above steps will help restore your browser(s) to the way it was operating before adware dug its claws in. However, it might not remove the root cause if there's a deeper malware infection. <a href=",1">Let's move on.</a></p> <hr /> <h3>Just Uninstall It</h3> <p>Not all malware is highly sophisticated. Many of them can be uninstalled just like any other program, so before you go any further, bring up the Control Panel and head over to Programs and Features. Scan the list for any signs of adware, toolbars, or anything else that's obviously unwanted software and simply uninstall it. Is your system back to normal? If so, then great, you got off easy! If not, blurt out a few curse words (you'll feel better) and then continue reading.</p> <h3>Fight Software with Software</h3> <p>One of our favorite and most reliable anti-malware programs is <a href="" target="_blank">Malwarebytes</a>. There's both a free and paid version, the latter of which adds proactive protection like real-time monitoring and conveniences like scheduled scanning. For removing existing malware, the free version is sufficient.</p> <p>What's neat about Malwarebytes is that it scans for a wide range of rogue software, like spyware, adware, some viruses, and even rootkits. Be advised that Malwarebytes isn't intended as a standalone antivirus program, but as a supplement. Or, in this case, as a cleanup tool.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/malwarebytes_0.jpg" alt="Malwarebytes" title="Malwarebytes" width="620" height="409" /></p> <p>The first thing you should do when running Malwarebytes is to update the database so that it can scan for the latest threats. Just click the <strong>Update Now</strong> now link and let it do its thing.</p> <p>See that big <strong>Scan Now</strong>&nbsp;button at the bottom? Don't click it just yet. First, click the <strong>Settings</strong> option and navigate to <strong>Detection and Protection</strong>. Even though Malwarebytes scans for rootkits, you first have to enable the option, and this is where you'll find it—check the <strong>Scan for rootkits</strong> box.</p> <p>Now, go to the Scan heading and select <strong>Threat Scan</strong>, which is the recommended option. This will run a comprehensive sweep of your system and could take a long time to finish. Find something else to do for a bit—ride a bike, catch up on some reading, make love, play a console game, grab some lunch, or anything else you can think of that's more fun than watching a system scan. When it's finished, audit the list of threats for any false positives and uncheck them, then click <strong>Remove Selected</strong>.</p> <h3>Solicit a Second (or Third) Opinion</h3> <p>As much as we like Malwarebytes, there's no single program out there capable of detecting and removing every piece of malicious software. For a machine that's in particularly bad shape, it pays to run multiple spyware sweeps. Which ones? There are several out there, and one that we still like is <a href="" target="_blank">Spybot Search and Destroy</a>.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/spybot.jpg" alt="Spybot" title="Spybot" width="620" height="451" /></p> <p>As with all of these programs, be sure to update the definitions database first—just click the <strong>Update</strong> icon. The first update can take a few minutes, even on a fast Internet connection, so be patient. Once it's finished, click <strong>System Scan</strong> and let it sweep your system for junk.</p> <p>As you can see, these programs are pretty self explanatory, so rather than walk you through each one, here's a list of software we recommend running on badly infected machines:</p> <ul> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Comodo Antimalware BOClean</a></li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Hitman Pro</a></li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">AdwCleaner</a></li> <li><a href="" target="_blank">Kaspersky TDSSKiller</a> (rootkit removal tool)</li> </ul> <p>There are others out there, and if you have a favorite, feel free to add it to the list. Remember, it might not always be necessary to run several different programs, but for a machine that's in really rough shape, it doesn't hurt to blitz the opposition using multiple tools.</p> <h3>Better Safe Mode than Sorry</h3> <p>In some cases, you may not be able to run or even install the aforementioned malware removal software. Some of the more sophisticated malware will block them outright, and if that's the case, you should try booting into Safe Mode. The same is true if a piece of malware manages to reinstall itself after you've already removed it.</p> <p>To boot into Safe Mode, shut down your system, turn it back on, and start tapping the F8 key. Instead of booting into Windows, you should see an <strong>Advanced Boot Options</strong> menu. Select the <strong>Safe Mode with Networking</strong> option. This will load just the essential Windows drivers while also giving you Internet access so that you can download, install, and update anti-malware software.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/msconfig.jpg" alt="MSCONFIG" title="MSCONFIG" width="585" height="392" /></p> <p>If you're having trouble booting into Safe Mode, another way in there is to boot into Windows as you normally would. Click the <strong>Start menu</strong>, select <strong>Run</strong>, and type <strong>msconfig</strong>. Select the <strong>Boot tab</strong> and under the <strong>Boot options</strong> heading, check the <strong>Safe boot</strong> box. Mark the <strong>Network</strong> radio bubble and click Apply, then reboot your system.</p> <h3>Scan for Viruses</h3> <p>Microsoft's built-in Windows Defender in Windows 8.1 (separate download in prior versions) does a good job overall of detecting viruses, and if that's what you're rolling with, update the database and scan your system. Otherwise, do the same with whichever antivirus software you're using. If you're not using one, either enable Windows Defender or seek out a free AV such as <a href="" target="_blank">Avast</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">AVG</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Avira</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Bitdefender</a>, <a href="" target="_blank">Comodo</a>, or <a href="" target="_blank">Panda</a>, to name a few of the no-cost options. Be sure to install only one, as multiple AV programs can conflict with each other (though it's okay to run them with malware removal tools like Malwarebytes).</p> <h3>Bring Out the Big Guns</h3> <p>At this point, you've scanned for viruses, run multiple anti-malware programs, rooted out any rootkits, and cleaned up your browsers, yet your system is still acting up. That's bad news, but don't go throwing in the towel just yet. Instead, download <a href="" target="_blank">HijackThis</a>.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>HijackThis</strong></span><br />HijackThis is a simple little utility that audits your registry, browser settings, and system services. It only takes a few seconds to run, however, it doesn't discern between good and malicious entries, so don't go deleting entries willy-nilly.</p> <p>There's no installation required here—just fire up HijackThis and select the top option so that it saves the results to a log file. In a few seconds, you'll see a long list of entries. Scroll through them and look for any obviously malicious entries. For example, if you know you've been infected by a particular piece of malware and you see references to it in the HijackThis results, check the box.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/hijackthis_0.jpg" alt="HiJackThis" title="HiJackThis" width="600" height="533" /></p> <p>Most of the entries will be safe, so be careful what you check. You could even break functionality of a legitimate program or cause other problems by checking certain entries. This is where the log comes in handy. When the scan finished, it should have populated a Notepad file with the results. Highlight the entire text and copy it to your clipboard.</p> <p>Now head to <a href="" target="_blank">I Am Not A Geek</a>, paste the contents in the box, and click Parse. Potentially malicious entries will be highlighted red, but before you click the check box in HijackThis, look up each one in Google so that you're sure of what you're removing.</p> <p>There are several other online analyzers, such as <a href="" target="_blank"> Security</a> and <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Try using at least two, and if you still need help, solicit advice from a forum such as <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Bleeping Computer</em></a>.</p> <p><span style="text-decoration: underline;"><strong>ComboFix</strong></span><br />As a last resort before wiping your system clean and starting anew, there's <a href="" target="_blank">ComboFix</a>, an aggressive program that hunts for persistent infections and attempts to remove them. It was developed by the folks at <em>Bleeping Computer</em> and they recommend not running it unless specifically requested, so keep that in mind. It's also worth noting that ComboFix doesn't yet work in Windows 8.1 or Windows 2000, though it does run in Windows 8, 7, Vista, and XP.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u69/combofix.jpg" alt="ComboFix" title="ComboFix" width="600" height="263" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">If it's finally come to this, follow the instructions in <a href="" target="_blank"><em>Bleeping Computer's</em> guide</a> and when it's finished running, see if your system is back to normal. Should problems remain, post a copy of the log ComboFix generated into the forum thread where it was recommended that you run it.</p> <p><em>Follow Paul on <a href="" target="_blank">Google+</a>, <a href="!/paul_b_lilly" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, and <a href="" target="_blank">Facebook</a></em></p> delete features free guide how to remove malware Security Software Uninstall virus Windows Features Mon, 06 Apr 2015 20:25:46 +0000 Paul Lilly 29654 at