Maximum PC - Reviews en CyberPower PC Syber Vapor Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A Steam box for the enthusiast</h3> <p>Much like what <a title="alienware" href="" target="_blank">Alienware</a> did with its <a title="alpha" href="" target="_blank">Alpha</a> console, <a href="">CyberPower PC</a> is transforming its <a href="">Steam Machine</a> into a Windows box (you can thank <a href="">Valve’s delay</a> of its hardware initiative for that). CyberPower PC is branding its new line of PCs under its Syber Vapor line, which is an obvious nod to Valve’s “Steam” nomenclature. Unlike the Alienware Alpha, however, there is no proprietary 10-foot UI here. Rather, the Vapor boots directly into Steam’s <a title="big picture mode" href="" target="_blank">Big Picture Mode</a>. CyberPower PC is billing the Vapor as “the ultimate PC gaming console,” and with some minor quibbles aside, we think the company makes a pretty compelling argument.&nbsp;</p> <p>Arguably, our biggest issue with the Vapor is that it’s... well, pretty big. Don’t get us wrong, at 13.8x13.5x3.8 inches it’s certainly a lot smaller than most gaming desktop PCs, but unlike Alienware’s much smaller Alpha, the Vapor is much too big for backpacks. It wouldn’t even fit in our Everki Beacon backpack, to which, as you might remember, we awarded a 9 Kick Ass and praised for being able to carry large 17-inch gaming notebooks. The portability problem is also exacerbated by the Vapor’s weight—it’s heavy. Whereas the Alpha was a tiny bundle of joy to lug around at 4.5 pounds, the Vapor is likely to strain backs, weighing in at 15 pounds.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/cyberpower_pc-2.jpg" alt="syber vapor review" title="syber vapor review" width="620" height="367" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>There are seven LED color schemes to choose from.</strong></p> <p>While it is a bit larger than Microsoft’s Xbox One, it looks more like a console than a PC. The version that we got is white with black trim, but it also comes in an all-black chassis. Even though we like the look of both, we prefer the black and white version a bit more for its contrasting hues. Both color variants offer LED lights on the front, with six colors schemes to choose from via a physical button on top of the case. The colors include red, blue, green, light-green, light-blue, and purple. There’s also an option to have the case cycle through all the colors automatically. There’s something of a Tron vibe to the chassis, but we kind of like it in this case (no pun intended). You can also turn off the LEDs if they don’t appeal to you.</p> <p>Even though Alienware’s Alpha was somewhat modular and allowed you to swap out the storage, RAM, and CPU, that’s about all you could change. With the Syber Vapor, it’s much less proprietary and just about as modular as any Mini-ITX system. It can take a single full-length graphics card, handle up to 16GB of RAM, and can house a standard SFX PSU up to 800 watts.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Syber Vapor boots directly into Steam Big Picture Mode</strong></p> <p>While CyberPower PC comes with a wireless controller, instead of going with the wireless Xbox 360 controller (like the Alienware Alpha), the Vapor includes a Logitech F710 gamepad. The button layout is similar to Microsoft’s equivalent, but the shape of the controller feels similar to Sony’s Dual Shock offering, in that there are dual sticks toward the bottom-middle of the controller. The F710 works OK, but we prefer the Xbox 360 controller, as it contours better to our hands. The F710 isn’t the only peripheral that CyberPower PC included with our unit, however. While some of the more affordable models in the Vapor line include a wireless mini QWERTY keyboard, our system came with Logitech’s K400 wireless keyboard. The K400 has a little touchpad to the right of the keys, so you can mouse around. CyberPower PC opted to include this because, unlike Alienware, it didn’t program its controller to emulate a mouse-and-keyboard setup. While we would have really appreciated this feature, and feel it’s sort of a cheap shortcut on CyberPower PC’s part, the inclusion of the K400 keyboard does open up the system as both a Steam box and a full-fledged Windows PC (You can get to the Windows desktop by exiting Steam). Whereas it was a bit of a chore having to rely solely on a wireless Xbox 360 gamepad to control the Alpha, the Vapor’s included K400 does go a long way to mitigate annoying installation pop-ups in Steam Big Picture Mode. On a related note, as hard as Valve has worked on BPM, it still has some issues to iron out.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/cyber_vapor.jpg" alt="Vapor PC" title="Vapor PC" width="620" height="620" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The case also comes in black.</strong></p> <p>When it came to our Vapor’s specs, we had little to complain about. While there are a couple of different configurations to choose from, CyberPower PC sent us its super-decked-out SKU, which includes components such as Intel’s 4GHz quad-core i7-4790K CPU coupled with Zalman’s CNPS8900 Quiet CPU cooler, Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 980, and 8GB of Corsair Vengeance lower-power DDR3 RAM clocked at 2,133MHz. All of this is sitting on top of an MSI Z97I AC Mini-ITX mobo and has a 450-watt Silverstone ST45SF-G SFX PSU. And for storage, our Vapor has a 120GB Kingston SSD and a 1TB 2.5-inch 7,200rpm HDD. All in all, this is nearly as much computer power as CyberPower PC can cram into this box. The cost of our unit? At the time of print, our particular SKU retails for $1,638 and while that certainly prices it well beyond the consoles, it’s actually quite a bargain. As a matter of fact, when we searched for all the individual components on Newegg to try and replicate the build ourselves, the total tab came out to be $1,807. So, you’re easily saving over $150 here, and you’re getting CyberPower PC’s one-year warranty on top of that. That’s some OEM voodoo right there.</p> <p>To see how it compares to a full-tower DIY system with the same components, we look at the desktop featured in the cover story of our February 2015 issue, which conveniently has the same CPU and GPU. As would be expected, the bigger chassis allowed our desktop to perform slightly better overall, with the Vapor trailing behind one to five percent in our graphics tests. The only graphics benchmark where the Vapor was actually able to outperform our desktop equivalent was in Batman: Arkham Origins, but we suspect it’s because of the newer GeForce drivers we’ve got running compared to the build we originally set up for the February issue. As a gaming machine, our Vapor is a beast and should be able to max out any game you throw at it with smooth framerates. If anything, our unit is overkill for 1080P, with the upside being that it’s a bit more “future proof.” One of our complaints about Alienware’s Alpha is that it didn’t support GeForce Optimal Playable Settings, which is great for console noobs who don’t want to finagle with adjusting graphics settings. With our Vapor, users can simply set everything to max. It’s a brute-force way of tackling a complex problem, but hey, in this case, it works.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/k400.jpg" alt="k400 keyboard" title="k400 keyboard" width="620" height="371" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Our Syber Vapor came with Logitech's K400 wireless keyboard</strong></p> <p>When it came to the CPU benchmarks, the Vapor trailed the desktop by 5 to 10 percent, but we suspect that mostly has to do with our desktop’s Kraken X61, which is a great CPU liquid cooler. The Vapor is definitely running high-end desktop parts, but its form factor tames its components ever so slightly. But let’s be honest here, a 4790K is overkill for gaming today.</p> <p>Considering the Vapor is meant to connect to your HDTV, all of the power in this box is moot if the user experience isn’t good. Because the Vapor runs Windows 8.1, users will have to go through the annoying Windows 8.1 setup process. Once we got that out of the way, we noticed that the Vapor scaled perfectly to our 1080p Samsung HDTV over HDMI. We couldn’t say the same about the Alienware Alpha, which required us to rejigger our display to fit the confines of the screen. Unfortunately, some games like SpeedRunners boot up in windowed mode, which takes you out of the illusion that you’re playing on a console. And speaking of booting, the startup process took 16 seconds to get to Windows, but then the Vapor automatically boots into Steam Big Picture Mode after that and kicks up the timer to 30 seconds overall. That’s not super-fast, but it’s much faster than the Alienware Alpha, which takes more than three times as long to boot. We have to say that we really missed being able to use the gamepad to emulate the mouse and keyboard, however, as that did work for Alienware’s box in a pinch. Really, who wants to go looking for their wireless keyboard whenever you’re playing a Steam game with only partial controller support? One thing that we really liked about the experience, however, is that our Vapor ran very quietly under load.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/f710.png" alt="Logitech F710" title="Logitech F710" width="498" height="319" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>CyberPower includes Logitech's F710 wireless controller</strong></p> <p>We had some relatively small minor issues with the build quality. The unit we tested was actually our second unit; the first unit we received was dead on arrival. But hey, that stuff happens every now and then. The replacement unit reviewed here had its top lid pretty much fall off out of the box; its single screw wasn’t secured all the way. We tightened it easily enough, but then when we placed the Vapor flat on its side (which is one of the ways you can orient the box), one of the rubber feet came off (there was enough adhesive on it to stick it back in place). Little issues like these make us question CyberPower PC’s assembly line.</p> <p>The Syber Vapor certainly isn’t perfect, and neither is Steam’s Big Picture Mode, but as a Mini-ITX gaming PC, it rocks, especially for the price. At this point, you literally cannot beat its price if you tried to DIY. In addition, it’s got enough horsepower to eat any 1080p game you throw at it. Yes, it’s relatively big and heavy, and a part of us would have preferred a smaller, cheaper, and more portable unit with a short GTX 970, but as it stands, this is still one pretty kick ass gaming PC.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Syber Vapor Specs</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/syber_vapor_specs.png" alt="syber vapor specs" title="syber vapor specs" width="615" height="273" /></p> <p><strong>Syber Vapor Benchmarks</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/syber_vapor_benchmarks.png" alt="syber vapor benchmarks" title="syber vapor benchmarks" width="587" height="333" /></p> <p><em>Our full-tower desktop PC uses an Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 and an Intel Core i7-4970K CPU.&nbsp;</em></p> alienware big picture mode console cyberpower pc Review Steam steam machine syber vapor Valve Gaming News Reviews Tue, 17 Feb 2015 22:40:49 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29436 at An Inside Look at How Logitech Designs Its Gaming Mice <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/dsc01600.jpg" alt="logitech gaming mouse" title="logitech gaming mouse" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />The science and testing behind Logitech’s gaming mice</h3> <p><em>This is part two of our in-depth tour of Logitech’s facilities in Switzerland. This article focuses on how Logitech designs and develops its gaming mice. For an inside look at how the company is attempting to reinvent the mechanical keyboard, click <a title="logitech mechanical keyboard" href="" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p> <p>While Logitech is generally viewed as a peripheral manufacturer, the company views itself as a technology company. In an attempt to show PC gamers that it uses cutting-edge design methodologies, Logitech invited us to its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland to show us how the company designs and tests it gaming mice.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Logitech explains how its G402 mouse uses two sensors</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><img src="/files/u154082/g402_hyperion_fury.jpg" alt="logitech g402 hyperion fury" title="logitech g402 hyperion fury" width="200" height="214" style="float: left; margin: 5px;" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury<br /></strong>The company’s most interesting mouse today is arguably the G402 Hyperion Fury, which it claims to be “the world’s fastest gaming mouse.” Logitech boasts that the G402 can move a blistering 12.5 meters a second. To achieve this, Logitech says it uses a combination of two sensors. At slow-to-moderate speeds, the mouse uses a traditional optical sensor. Optical sensors are arguably the most common sensors used in gaming mice and use high-speed cameras to take blazing-fast images of the surface it rests upon. From here, the sensor then overlaps the images to create a movement map. While the cameras used in Logitech’s optical sensors are magnitudes faster than the traditional point-and-shoot cameras you find at your camera store (think about 12,000 shots a second), the company says that even they have detectable lag when you’re trying to move a mouse at 12.5 meters a second. Therefore, beyond a certain speed threshold, the G402 switches over to an accelerometer/gyroscope solution. It uses a small ARM processor that can switch on the fly, and Logitech claims less than a millisecond of delay results from the switch. While a gyroscope solution isn’t the most accurate sensor at low speeds, Logitech says they excel when there is a quick burst of movement, thus the G402 uses a hybrid solution that aims to leverage both sensor’s strengths to achieve its speed.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>An indepth interview with Logitech's mouse expert Chris Pate</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/logitech_g302.jpg" alt="Logitech G302 Daedalus Prime" title="Logitech G302 Daedalus Prime" width="200" height="166" style="float: left; margin: 5px;" /></p> <p><strong>Logitech G302 Daedalus Prime<br /></strong>While this hybrid sensor seems advantageous for the end user, we were surprised to hear that the company’s even newer G302 Daedalus Prime mouse opts instead to support a more traditional optical solution. Logitech told us the reason the hybrid solution wasn’t included was because the G302 was designed to be a smaller, lighter MOBA mouse, and trying to house two sensors along with the G402’s ARM processor wasn’t ideal to achieve this compact form factor. This isn’t to say the G302 doesn’t have its element of uniqueness, however.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><iframe src="//" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Logitech says its mice are good for at least 20 million clicks</strong></p> <p>Because MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA 2 feature tons of clicking, the Daedalus Prime is largely focused on eliminating the travel between the mouse’s buttons and its microswitches that activate commands. The G302 is able to do this by separating the left and right mouse buttons from the body of the mouse (Logitech says most mice use a monolithic design), and having them rest directly on top of the microswitch. This means that there is no air travel between the button and the switch at all. In the absence of air travel, Logitech designed a new metal spring tensioning system that rests between the button and the switch. When we asked Logitech if this could potentially add unwanted tension, which could theoretically create microscopic amounts of lag in and of itself, the company assured us that it didn’t, but rather aided in a consistent clicking experience.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><iframe src="//" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A Logitech contraption that measures mouse accuracy</strong></p> <p><img src="" alt="logitech g602" title="logitech g602" width="200" height="165" style="float: left; margin: 5px;" /></p> <p><strong>Logitech G602<br /></strong>One of the best-selling mice that Logitech currently offers is its G602 wireless mouse. According to Logitech, when you look at the mouse industry as a whole, wireless mice outsell wired ones. This might not be true for gaming, but with the G602, Logitech worked to overcome many of gamers’ fears.</p> <p>The most obvious concern for gamers is lag. According to Logitech, lag on the G602 is imperceptible. The company ran an experiment where it asked a group of gamers if they could detect any noticeable lag using its wireless gaming mouse. People said they believed it felt laggier than a traditional wired mouse. When Logitech plugged in a faux wired cable (that did nothing), the same users said it felt much more responsive. Essentially, Logitech asserts that it was merely the placebo effect at play. According to Logitech, the G602 is capable of delivering a two millisecond response time. The company says that most people can only detect latency at four milliseconds and beyond. According to its own studies, some people can’t even perceive 40 milliseconds of lag.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Logitech has a special room that removes all wireless signals to detect wireless dead zones for its wireless mice.</strong></p> <p>Logitech claims it could have gotten the G602’s response time under two milliseconds, but at the cost of battery life, which is actually the true obstacle of a wireless gaming mouse. By scaling it back to two milliseconds, Logitech says it was able to get much more battery life out of the G602, which it asserts is able to get 250 hours of use out of a single charge. How is the company able to achieve those figures? Logitech says that it designed the G602 with battery in mind and created a sensor specifically for gaming wirelessly. The G602 also uses Logitech’s proprietary USB interface. When we asked them why it didn’t use Bluetooth, the company informed us that the response rate of Bluetooth devices are at the mercy of the host (computer) device. The G602, in particular, uses a 1,000Hz polling rate through USB.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><iframe src="//" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Logitech proving that there is no added acceleration to its mice.</strong></p> <p>Other interesting things we learned about mice from Logitech is that no sensor is 100 percent accurate. You might see that terminology used to market mice from other vendors, but Logitech asserts that these claims are simply false.</p> <p>Another question we had pertained to laser mice. Several years ago, laser mice were quite popular because they tracked on a wider range of surfaces compared to optical. While laser mice aren’t terrible, optical mice have one key advantage over them, and that comes down to accuracy variance, more commonly referred to as “mouse acceleration.” Mouse acceleration is undesired for gaming and generally equates to an inconsistent movement experience. According to Logitech, with laser mice, you get about a five to six percent variance, making for an inconsistent experience, compared to an optical sensor’s one percent equivalent.</p> <p>One final interesting tidbit that we learned is that many gamers prefer braided cables on their mice, but Logitech’s data shows that more pros actually prefer plastic cables as they tend to offer more flexibility. So if you want to play like a pro, you might want to consider ditching the braided cable.</p> <p>For more pictures and information from the event, check out our image gallery below.&nbsp;</p> Daedalus Prime esports G302 G402 g602 gaming mice Hardware hyperion fury logitech moba mouse shooter wireless Gaming News Mice Features Tue, 27 Jan 2015 19:35:46 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29321 at Alienware Alpha Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A great console-sized PC stuck in the alpha stage</h3> <p>As great as PC gaming is, let’s face it, when it comes to gaming in the living room, consoles have the PC beat. Alienware and the Steam Machines were supposed to change that, but considering <a title="steam machine delayed" href="" target="_blank">Valve delayed its hardware initiative</a>, Alienware decided to releases its box early as a small Windows 8.1 PC, dubbed the <a href=""><strong>Alienware Alpha</strong></a>. While the PC does an admirable job of attacking the PC’s problem areas in the living room, as the name implies, it’s still (unfortunately) in a bit of an alpha stage.</p> <p>The chassis is black and small. Measuring 2.1x7.8x7.8 inches, the Alpha is closest in size to Nintendo’s Wii U console. At 4.5 pounds, Alienware’s little PC is also extremely portable. We had an easy time lugging it around to friends’ apartments with four controllers inside a backpack. Speaking of controllers, the unit comes with a black wireless Xbox 360 controller.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/alienware-alpha-1920.jpg" alt="alienware alpha review" title="alienware alpha review" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>Ports on the Alpha include two USB 3.0, three USB 2.0, one S/PDIF, and two HDMI (one for output and another for input). It is a little disappointing that there isn’t an analog headset port, but Alienware told us it was one concession it had to make to produce such a small form factor.</p> <p>The box’s aesthetics aren’t very flashy. It’s got some sharp angles, akin to Alienware’s gaming laptops, a glowing triangular LED, and a glowing Alienware power button. You can also customize the LEDs through Alienware’s UI. Overall, it will look nice sitting next to your TV.</p> <p>Inside the box, the Alpha is running a mobile GPU based on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 860M, which was the same graphics card used in the <a title="hp omen" href="" target="_blank">HP Omen</a> gaming laptop we reviewed last month. Since this box has such a unique setup, the Omen seemed like the fairest candidate for a zero point to test against. Its GPU runs at 1,020MHz and has 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM clocked at 1,253MHz. Compared to our ZP, however, the Alpha’s performance was a disappointing 11 percent slower in our Metro: Last Light and 3DMark 11 benchmarks. It did perform 7 percent better in BioShock Infinite, however. Overall, the Alpha is nowhere near the most powerful gaming PC out there, but it should be able to run most AAA games on medium to high settings. It will, at the very least, be competitive with the next-gen consoles.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/alpha_tv.jpg" alt="alpha tv" title="alpha tv" width="620" height="342" /></p> <p>One aspect of the Alpha that we feel isn’t up to snuff is system RAM; our unit only offered what we feel is a minimal 4GB. Sure, the majority of games should run fine on 4GB, but that’s beginning to change with newer titles. We think Alienware should up the Alpha’s base RAM to 8GB. Luckily, you can upgrade the RAM to 8GB, though you’ll need laptop RAM to do so.</p> <p>You can also upgrade the storage with any 2.5-inch drive. If you’re like us, you’ll really want to do this. Our unit came with a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive, which was embarrassingly slow. It took the Alpha one minute and 35 seconds to boot up, and then another 35 seconds to boot up into Steam Big Picture Mode. If you’re loading a really big game, it’s only going to lengthen the wait.</p> <p>At the heart of the console is the Alpha’s i3-4310QT CPU. Despite the box’s size, it’s actually a quad-core desktop CPU running at 2.9GHz. You can upgrade this to a quad-core i7, too. And you may want to, considering this i3 gets beat up by 30–54 percent compared to the HP Omen’s mobile i7-4710HQ processor. While dual-core CPUs are fine for the majority of games, for a little more future-proofing, we would have preferred at least a quad-core i5 chip.</p> <p>Of course, the hardware means very little if the software isn’t properly optimized to take over the living room. While the Alpha is running Windows 8.1 underneath, Alienware has wrapped its own user interface around it, which you can navigate with a controller. The Alpha UI also allows you to launch directly into Steam Big Picture Mode, which comes pre-installed. Because some Steam games only offer partial controller support, Alienware has done some super-nifty software tweaks to allow you to use an Xbox controller like a mouse in a pinch. You can do this by pressing down on all four shoulder buttons and pressing down on the left stick. This will allow you to navigate past any pop-up window boxes.</p> <p>The Alpha isn’t perfect, however. One of the taglines Alienware is using for the Alpha is that it “combines the freedom of PC gaming with the ease of a console,” but the slogan doesn’t always ring true. We encountered some resolution issues. For instance, in Shadow of Mordor, it defaulted to 1280x1024 resolution on our 1080p TV and had no in-game option to adjust it to 1080p. Some games that allowed us to adjust the resolution ended up blacking out the screen when we cranked it up to 1080p. Meanwhile, some games would open up off-center in a windowed mode by default. When we tried to boot up Skyrim, it gave us an error message that read, “Failed to initialize renderer. Your display doesn’t support the selected resolution.”</p> <p>The consoles also allow you to watch Netflix, and the only real good way to do that on the Alpha at the moment is to boot it up to the desktop mode, but here you’ll need to have a keyboard/mouse plugged in. Because of that, we really recommend getting something like <a title="k400" href="" target="_blank">Logitech’s wireless K400 keyboard</a>, which pairs well with the Alpha.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/alpha_010.png" alt="alpha review" title="alpha review" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>Another area in which the consoles have at a little easier than PC gaming is that console gamers don’t have to tweak their settings. Nvidia has a solid workaround to this problem with its GeForce Experience, but unfortunately the Alpha does not support GeForce optimal playable settings, which is a shame considering many console noobs might not know which graphical knobs to twist.</p> <p>At $550, the Alpha certainly isn’t cheap, especially when you look at its specs and compare it to the consoles. And the Alpha has a bunch of little software hiccups to overcome. Despite these problems, however, when the Alpha works, it’s awesome. Steam has a surprising number of fun local co-op games like Broforce, SpeedRunners, and more. Alienware’s box does a great job of bringing PC games to the living room. Sure, you could build a cheaper, more powerful system, but Alienware has spent a decent amount of R&amp;D trying to solve the software/UI issues. Yes, the box is in a bit of an alpha stage right now and isn’t the console-killer it set out to be, but we hope that Alienware continues to make future iterations of the Alpha. As it stands, the Alpha is a good machine for the PC vet, but not a perfect solution for the console noob.</p> <p><strong>Alienware Alpha Specs</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/alienware_alpha_benchmarks.png" alt="alienware alpha benchmarks" title="alienware alpha benchmarks" width="620" height="373" /></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/new_spec_chart.png" alt="alienware alpha specs" title="alienware alpha specs" width="615" height="249" /></p> alienware alpha review console Hardware small gaming pc steam machine Valve Windows Gaming News Reviews Mon, 26 Jan 2015 22:21:34 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29316 at Samsung Portable SSD T1 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>The little engine that could</h3> <p>With the US still lagging behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to the availability of high-speed Internet, there's still a lot of need for high-capacity external storage. It's also a good idea to have local system backups. A few years ago, your choices were mostly clunky 3.5-inch drive enclosures that needed external power. We've since graduated to sleek 2.5-inch units that get their juice straight from USB 3.0 cables that shuttle bits between the drive and your PC. Today, Samsung is taking it a step further with the Portable SSD T1, an external solid-state drive that can operate in the neighborhood of SATA III speeds.</p> <p>An enterprising gearhead can get most of the T1's functionality by purchasing an internal SSD and a drive enclosure that supports UASP (USB Attached SCSI Protocol). In short, UASP lets an external storage device use commands normally reserved for internal storage devices. The two key differences between UASP and standard USB are the ability to deal with data requests in an arbitrary order, and the ability to process multiple data requests at once. This can boost your performance by hundreds of mehabytes per second, putting UASP drives in a completely different performance class from USB 3.0. As you might imagine, this also requires a more sophisticated USB controller on the motherboard, and a driver for your operating system. Your mobo manufacturer customarily provides drivers or software to enable the UASP function of its USB controller.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/samsung_portable_beauty_620_corrected.jpg" alt="Samsung Portable SSD T1" title="Samsung Portable SSD T1" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p>The Portable T1 has an additional advantage, however, and it's not the compact dimentions. It has integrated drive encryption. When you plug it into your PC, it will ask you to set a password for your new drive. You don't have to set one immediately. You can do it later by double-clicking the turquoise gear icon in your system tray and clicking on the arrow next to the drive's security status. Your password can be up to 22 characters, which isn't as long as we could like, but the only way to reset it is to wipe the drive. This is actually a good thing. An external drive whose encryption can be bypassed with a physical switch or a call to customer support isn't all that encrypted.</p> <p>You can set up all kind of fancy encryption with that SSD that you've put into a UASP enclosure, but it's not going to offer encryption out-of-the-box. It needs third-party software to interact with the drive before it's secured. Having this built into the drive is a big advantage for non-expert users. If you don't need encryption, or you don't mind the logitistics of using third-party encryption software, then getting your own internal SSD and a UASP enclosure is definitely more cost-effective; the 250GB version we tested has a list price of $179.99. The 500GB version comes in at $299.99, and the 1TB is $599.99. They may end up selling for much less than the list price, which happens frequently with PC components. But it's starting out on the high end. Right now, you can get a 960GB Sandisk Ultra II internal SSD for $350 from NCIX US, and a UASP enclosure from Amazon for less than twenty bucks (which comes with a USB 3.0 cable). Most internal SSDs in that size range hit between $400 and $450, but the price difference is still pretty significant.</p> <p>Its performance isn't too shabby, either. Without UASP, the drive will transfer data in the neighborhood of 200MB/s, which is very respectable. It still leaves the Sandisk Extreme Pro at the top of the heap when it comes to external storage speeds. That's ironic, because it's just a thumb drive. The Portable T1 has 250GB, 500GB, and 1TB capacities, though, so there's that. The Extreme Pro's largest size is 256MB.</p> <p>With UASP in the mix, the Portable T1 leaps ahead of the pack, with a sustained read speed of 433MB/s, and a sustained write speed of 355MB/s, according to CrystalDisk Mark. But your results will vary. When paired with an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard, we couldn’t manage a sustained read speed of more than 350MB/s. When we plugged it into a USB 3.0 port on the back of a Gigabyte Z77X-UD5H, we could read at around 450MB/s, but the write speed maxed out at only 85MB/s. We tried another port on the back, and the sustained write speeds jumped up to 355MB/s. It's not the drive's fault, but it is disappointing to see this much variance from one USB controller to another, even on the same motherboard (which will sometimes use multiple controllers). PCMark Vantage also locked up while attempting to test this drive, but it reports a somewhat abstract score, rather than actual performance numbers, so it's not critical to our understanding of the drive's capabilities.</p> <p>The Portable T1's cable is also extremely short, measuring only about four inches long. This is perfect for laptop users, but desktop users will have the device basically dangling off one the ports on their case. We also regret to report that it uses a bright blue LED to indicate connectivity, though it's a small one, thankfully. It doesn't look like the electronics industry is in any hurry to return to the red LEDs we used for decades that never distracted the retina. On the bright side, it continues to push the envelope of external storage performance. In that light, our benchmark chart compares the drive to internal SSDs, since it completely outclasses non-UASP external drives. It's still not ideal for sustained high-bandwidth things like HD video editing, but it's a surprisingly snappy little unit otherwise.</p> external drive Portable T1 Review samsung solid state drive ssd storage UASP USB 3.0 Reviews SSD Tue, 20 Jan 2015 15:06:33 +0000 Tom McNamara 29278 at Sound Supremacy: Six Gaming Headsets Reviewed <!--paging_filter--><h3>Great sound is a gaming necessity—we put six hotshot headsets to the test</h3> <p>For a gamer, top-notch sound is just as important as great graphics. Fancy, polygon-pushing GPUs may get all the attention in gaming, but if you pair them with a crappy pair of speakers or a low-rent headset, you’re ruining the immersion and depriving yourself of a competitive advantage.</p> <p>Click <a title="gaming headset" href="" target="_blank">here</a> to read our last roundup of gaming headsets.</p> <p>And if you do want excellent sound, a headset is the most practical way to go. Speakers are great, but they take up a lot of space, and unless you’re gaming in your own fortress of solitude, those window-rattling bass thumps might not be appreciated by your neighbors or family. A high-quality headset gets you right inside the game, keeping the outside world out and the gaming world in.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.opener15408_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.opener15408_small.jpg" width="620" height="470" /></a></p> <p>We’ve rounded up six high-end units from respected peripheral makers, and put them through the paces. We evaluated each one based on the unique features it brings to the table, as well as the three criteria we value most: comfort, build quality, and audio performance.</p> <h3>Roccat Kave XTD</h3> <p><strong>This big headset delivers true 5.1 surround sound</strong></p> <p>German gaming-gear company Roccat has been on the scene for a few years now, but is still making products like it’s got something to prove. Roccat’s newest headset, the Kave XTD, is a remarkably solid entry into the fast-growing “true 5.1” market.</p> <p>Unlike “virtual 7.1” headsets, a true 5.1 unit such as the Kave XTD actually has multiple drivers in each ear, so that sounds that come from behind you in the game actually hit your ear from behind in real life. The result is excellent positional audio—easily the best of any of the headsets we tested for this article. For games as well as movies, the bass-heavy mix and convincing surround sound really enhance immersion. For music, the Kave XTD is acceptable but doesn’t stand out from the crowd.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15364_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15364_small_0.jpg" alt="The Kave XTD’s earcups feature a small opening that widens on the inside, sealing you off from the outside world." title="Roccat Kave XTD" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Kave XTD’s earcups feature a small opening that widens on the inside, sealing you off from the outside world.</strong></p> <p>The Kave XTD includes a nicely designed desktop mixer with a built-in “soundcard.” The mixer allows you to adjust your equalization on the fly and, interestingly, can connect to your smartphone with Bluetooth. When you get a call, you just punch a button on the mixer, and you can take it on the headset. Our only gripe with the mixer is that the Kave XTD is permanently connected to it—there’s no way to use the headset by itself, or even to take them apart to store them.</p> <p>Like many other true 5.1 headsets, the Kave XTD has a bit of a weight problem. It has a super-cushy padded headband to distribute the force from those maximum-diameter earcups, but it still started to feel a little oppressive during longer play sessions. We’d certainly prefer a slimmer design, but at this point in time, a little extra weight and size is just part of the trade-off for “true 5.1.”</p> <p>The other part of the trade-off is price. You get a lot of headset for your money, but the $170 price tag makes the Kave XTD more expensive than a lot of great-sounding cans. Still, if you want a well-built pair, and prioritize surround-sound gaming and movies above music, the Kave XTD is a strong choice.</p> <p><strong>Roccat Kave XTD</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$170, <a href=" " target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <h3>We’ve got you surrounded!</h3> <p>For a long time, surround sound and headsets were mutually exclusive. Headset manufacturers acknowledged the harsh reality that headphones, aka a pair of small speakers strapped to your dome, are by their nature a stereo experience. Even as 5.1 and 7.1 surround speaker setups started taking off in the home theater, and then with gaming PCs, nobody thought to market headsets as anything but stereo. All that has changed in the last couple of years, and now it’s hard to find a high-end headset that doesn’t claim to offer some sort of surround sound. Here’s a quick primer on the surround configurations you’re likely to encounter, and when they’re the right fit.</p> <p>7.1 Surround The hottest new trend in high-end headphones is being marketed as “Virtual 7.1” or even just “7.1 surround” headsets. Of course, these headphones still have exactly two drivers. The “7.1” label comes from the inclusion of built-in audio processing (these are always going to be USB headset or include a USB dongle or mixer) that takes a 5.1 or 7.1 surround signal from a game or movie, then mixes it down to two channels for the headset using techniques that create the illusion of three-dimensional sound. Of course, your game will do that by itself if you set it to output stereo audio, but the processing in a good pair of headphones will be better tuned to create positionality in a headset. The difference is noticeable, but not dramatic.</p> <p>5.1 Surround 5.1 surround headsets, on the other hand, actually physically include multiple physical drivers in each earcup for better sound positionality. This can make a big difference, particularly with picking out whether sounds are coming from in front of or behind you. The trade-off with true 5.1 headsets is that they tend to be expensive, large, and heavy. Further, the multiple smaller speakers usually don’t have quite the same dynamic range as the single large driver found in each earcup of stereo cans, making these inferior for listening to music.</p> <h3>Plantronics RIG</h3> <p><strong>A gaming headset for the smartphone generation</strong></p> <p>The RIG’s main selling point is that it’s a headset that does double duty—you plug your gaming hardware and your cell phone into a single mixer, then toggle between the two simply by flipping a switch. Unlike the Bluetooth connection found in the Kave XTD, the RIG connects to the phone with an audio cable. It’s less convenient, but the physical connection makes switching back and forth feel a little more responsive.</p> <p>The mixer also includes a nice set of hardware switches for controlling both gaming and phone volume and other settings. The RIG can also be used as a straight-up phone headset, as it comes with an extra wire with an inline microphone, if you want to ditch the mixer and the boom mic entirely. It’s a nicely designed product all around, with a simple look that favors clean, circular elements. The earcups and headband are plainer-looking than a lot of the competition, but they’re comfortable and feel reasonably solid. The circular control pod is similarly attractive and feels nice and heavy on the desk. Its various buttons, toggle and sliders all feel durable and high-quality.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans._155443_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans._155443_small.jpg" alt="The RIG can be detached from the desktop mixer for use on the go." title="Plantronics RIG" width="620" height="851" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The RIG can be detached from the desktop mixer for use on the go.</strong></p> <p>The RIG mixer is an interesting hybrid in that it uses your onboard analog ports but separates the microphone into a USB input. The mixer has three preset equalizer levels, but the stereo sound quality on the whole is neither outstanding nor unacceptable. You can find headsets with better sound quality for $100, but we have to assume anyone buying the RIG is at least partially invested in its unique, phone-based feature set.</p> <p><strong>Plantronics RIG</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100, <a href=" " target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <h3> <hr />CM Storm Pulse-R</h3> <p><strong>This aluminum-clad headset fails to make an impression</strong></p> <p>As a headset, the Pulse-R is pretty plain, aside from some nice-looking LED backlighting (which is not customizable, and necessitates an otherwise useless USB connection), and some removable aluminum cladding on the earcups. We’re all in favor of metal on our gaming hardware, but the aluminum here looks super cheap, particularly compared to the exposed steel in the headband. CMStorm advertises these aluminum plates as customizable, and they do indeed feature prominent hex screws if you’d like to swap them out, but we’re not totally sure what you’re meant to swap them out for.</p> <p>The headset’s construction feels solid, but we weren’t crazy about the earcup design. The squarish cans are an in-between <br />size—smaller than full circumaural cups, but a little larger than most on-ear earcups. We frequently found one or both ears getting bent out of shape while wearing the set. The leather earcups are nicely padded, but in all, we weren’t impressed with the set’s comfort.</p> <p>The Pulse-R also features a poorly executed inline control unit. It’s surprisingly large, with a cheap-feeling mute switch and volume slider. Despite the control’s huge size, the volume slider only has about 5mm of travel, making it pretty worthless for fine volume control.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15373_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15373_small.jpg" alt="The aluminum side plates on the Pulse-R are removable, but what you replace them with is anyone's guess." title="CM Storm Pulse-R" width="620" height="836" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The aluminum side plates on the Pulse-R are removable, but what you replace them with is anyone's guess.</strong></p> <p>Sound quality was toward the low end of this roundup, with bass that was powerful but not terribly clear. For music and movies, the sound quality was especially bad, producing muddled audio that sometimes made it hard to hear dialogue and higher parts.</p> <p>The CM Storm doesn’t fall terribly short in any one area, but consistent quality issues and questionable design choices leave us unable to recommend this as a smart purchase.</p> <p><strong>CM Storm Pulse-R</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:6" title="score:6" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$90, <a href=" " target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <h3>Tritton Kunai</h3> <p><strong>A light-weight headset for gamers on a budget</strong></p> <p>Selling for around $50, the Tritton Kunai sits right at the entry level for real, high-grade gaming gear. For products in this category, the question is always whether they’re actually a good option for budget-minded gamers, or if they’re just pretenders that managed to sneak out of the bargain bin. So, where does the Kunai land?</p> <p>First, let’s talk build quality. As you would expect with a cheaper headset, the Kunai cuts some corners on construction. In all, it’s all-plastic build feels perfectly fine, but two issues concern us: First, the headband is plastic throughout—there’s no steel core to the band. Second, the audio cable that’s attached to the headset is neither braided nor terribly thick. Both of these represent pretty easy ways the Kunai could wear out or break.</p> <p>The headset is very light, and surprisingly comfortable with its pair of well-padded, rectangular on-ear cups. Its flexible boom mic is removable, and the earcups swivel to more easily rest on your collarbones while not in use. Between the small, lightweight design, removable mic, and smartphone-ready audio cable, there’s a pretty compelling secondary use case for the Kunai as a portable headset that’s also good for playing games at home.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15381_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15381_small.jpg" alt="The Kunai is marketed as a gaming console headset, but it doesn’t have any console-specific features, other than audio-cable adapters." title="Tritton Kunai" width="620" height="891" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Kunai is marketed as a gaming console headset, but it doesn’t have any console-specific features, other than audio-cable adapters.</strong></p> <p>For this price range, sound quality on the Kunai is good. It can’t get anywhere near the clarity and power that some of the other headsets in this roundup offer, but that's what the extra $100 or so buys you. For at-home gaming use alone, you can find alternatives with better sound and features in this price range, as well. However, if you value light weight, portability, and value, the Kunai’s not a bad deal.</p> <p><strong>Tritton Kunai</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$50, <a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <h3>SteelSeries 9H</h3> <p><strong>A durable headset with excellent fundamentals</strong></p> <p>The Steelseries 9H is, first and foremost, a well-built set of cans. The headband is built of steel, clad in an extra-rugged plastic. The earcups feature the same durable plastic as well as thick leather pads that are much suppler and less cheap-feeling than the leather found on even the most high-end models. Despite its solid workmanship, the headset is quite light for its size, and comfortable even after long sessions.</p> <p>Sound quality is similarly respectable, with bass that can be pumped up to head-shaking levels without drowning out the respectably crisp mids and highs. By default, it seems tuned for gaming, but with the software equalizer you can get solid music and movie performance out of it, as well.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15366_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15366_small.jpg" alt="When retracted, the microphone on the 9H is flush with the earcup’s surface." title="SteelSeries 9H" width="620" height="873" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>When retracted, the microphone on the 9H is flush with the earcup’s surface.</strong></p> <p>The 9H is flexible, usable either as an analog headset, or with an included USB dongle that offers the standard suite of audio processing, including the ubiquitous Dolby Headphone virtual 7.1. It comes with adapters for separate audio and mic connections or a single three-pole jack for use with phones and tablets. The braided cable includes a compact in-line remote with volume control and mic switch, as well as an optional extension that brings the total cable length to over 9 feet. When you’re not using the flexible noise-cancelling mic, it retracts fully into one of the earcups.</p> <p><strong>Steelseries 9H</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$160, <a href=" " target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At $160, the 9H is very expensive for a wired stereo headset, but you get your money’s worth in comfort and audio quality. Some PC-exclusive gamers might find the similar-but-wireless Corsair Vengeance 2100 a better deal at around the same price, but for those specifically looking for a wired or analog version, the 9H is an excellent choice.</p> <h3>Corsair Vengeance 2100</h3> <p><strong>This wireless headset gives you your money’s worth</strong></p> <p>Since its first entry into the headset market about four years ago, we’ve been reliably impressed with Corsair’s gaming headphones. Corsair has consistently focused on build, comfort and audio quality, without tacking on needless features that send the price sky-high. The Vengeance 2100—the company’s new top-of-the-line set, is no exception.</p> <p>Like previous Vengeance headsets, the 2100 errs on the side of “too big.” It’s heavy because of the built-in battery, but it's not uncomfortable. We’d prefer a lighter headset, but Corsair’s designed the Vengeance 2100 to handle its bulk the right way—by spreading out the weight evenly with a broad, padded headband, and huge, cushy earcups.</p> <p>The Vengeance 2100 is a wireless “7.1 surround” headset. A lot of high-end headsets are calling themselves “7.1” these days, but that just means that they’re stereo with built-in audio hardware for simulated 7.1 surround sound. As with most such headphones, the 7.1 surround in the Vengeance 2100 is an improvement over unprocessed sound, but it doesn’t <br />offer quite the same positionality as “true 5.1” surround like that found in the Roccat Kave XTD.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15365_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15365_small.jpg" alt="The Vengeance 2100’s extra-wide headband helps distribute its substantial weight." title="Corsair Vengeance 2100" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Vengeance 2100’s extra-wide headband helps distribute its substantial weight</strong></p> <p>The actual sound quality of the Vengeance 2100 is top-notch. The punchy base and defined mids are great for picking out noises on the virtual battlefield and in movies. Unlike many of the other gaming-tuned headsets, the Vengeance 2100 sounds great playing music, as well. The bass response is still excellent, without the indistinct highs that can make music sound muddy. A true audiophile probably won’t be in the market for a gaming headset in the first place, but it would be difficult to find headphones that sound better than this in the price range.</p> <p>Of course, one of the main selling points of the Vengeance 2100 is that it’s wireless. We found that the wireless worked perfectly, with no degradation of sound quality, good reception area, and an easy charging process. At $130, the Vengeance 2100 isn’t cheap, but it’s less expensive than most other high-quality wireless alternatives. With excellent sound quality, good comfort, and no major flaws, the Vengeance 2100 is a great deal and one we’d easily recommend.</p> <p><strong>Corsair Vengeance 2100</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:9ka" title="score:9ka" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$170, <a href="http:// www.corsair.comm/ " target="_blank">www.corsair.comm</a></strong></p> <h3>Audiophile headphones for gaming?</h3> <p>Obviously, gaming headsets aren’t the only game in town when it comes to head-mounted audio. There are plenty of cheapo earbuds and on-ear headphones available for those who don’t care much about sound quality, but there’s also a whole world of audiophile hardware out there—high-quality headphones designed for maximum-fidelity audio. Most audiophile-grade equipment is seriously expensive, but some of the “entry-level” models fall in the $100–200 range, along with most of the headsets in this roundup. With sets like the Sennheiser HD558 highly regarded and available for $130, are there reasons to buy a gaming headset at all? Here are the pros and cons of using an audiophile version for gaming.</p> <p>Pros An audiophile headset will almost always give you better fidelity for playing music, so if that’s a major priority for you, you’d do well to consider going that route. Also, it’s been our experience that build quality tends to be a little better. Finally, audiophile headphones are a lot more understated, design-wise. Whether that’s a plus or a minus depends on your particular tastes, but we think there’s something to be said for subtlety.</p> <p>Cons To be able to use voice, you’ll have to buy a clip-on microphone. You can get one for next to nothing, but we’d recommend springing for one of the $20–30 models if you want good recording capabilities. Audiophile headsets don’t prioritize big booming bass the way gaming varieties do, so if you like brain-rattling explosions in your games, or even if you’re a fan of bass-heavy music genres like hip-hop or EDM, you might not see much of an audio quality boost from cheaper audiophile cans. Lastly, many gaming headsets offer built-in audio processing, which can be a great value if you don’t have a dedicated sound card in your rig.</p> CM Storm Pulse-R Hardware June issues 2014 Plantronics RIG Roccat Kave XTD SteelSeries 9H Tritton Kunai Features Thu, 15 Jan 2015 22:11:35 +0000 Alex Castle 28567 at How to Use Adobe Photoshop <!--paging_filter--><p><span style="font-weight: bold;">Not sure where to start in Photoshop? Here's a crash course on the basics</span></p> <p>Photoshop is a powerful application that can be used for a variety of purposes, from editing photos or other images to graphic design and 3D art to light videography work. But Photoshop's power and versatility can also make it incredibly intimidating. The program’s main window is strewn with 20 different tools plus a ton of filter effects and image layers to top it all off. While Photoshop may be as understandable as Sanskrit to a novice, we’re going to show you how to get started with the basics.</p> <p><strong>Getting Started</strong></p> <p><strong><img src="/files/u170397/interface.jpg" width="620" height="341" /><br /></strong></p> <p>There’s a lot going on when you first launch Photoshop, but it’s not as incomprehensible as you think. On the left side, you’ll find the program's tools. You'll use these to manipulate your work, such as resizing and flipping images, cloning pixels, and drawing shapes. The right side, meanwhile, holds a quick menu to access the image adjustments; directly below that is your layer palette.</p> <h3><strong>Working in layers</strong></h3> <p><img src="/files/u170397/layers.jpg" width="135" height="351" style="float: left; margin: 10px;" />One of the things that makes Photoshop such a powerful image editor is the ability to stack layers on top of each other. For example, you might want to insert a new graphic into one layer, while another darkens a small portion of the image, and yet another adds more color saturation. Additonally, you can set each layer’s opacity and blend them altogether with effects. But more importantly, working in layers means you can isolate any changes you make to pixels in a that particular layer without affecting the whole image. So, every image you edit could easily have 10 or more layers. Professional editors will often create an image with 25 or more layers.</p> <p>The layers palette is located on the bottom-right of your screen; hit Control + J to create a new one. Think of your layers as a stack of paper. Make sure to organize each one accordingly, to avoid hidden elements. There are also plenty of ways to blend layers together, but we’ll come back to that later.</p> <h3><strong>All the filters</strong></h3> <p><strong><img src="/files/u170397/filters.jpg" width="620" height="349" /><br /></strong></p> <p>Filters are the second, if not the most, instrumental part of Photoshop. Unlike those color-shading Instagram filters, these will let you do some truly cool things with your images such as distorting the whole frame, adding various blur effects, and turning the image into a pixelated jumble—on purpose!</p> <p>There’s a lot to dig into here, so take yoru time and play around for awhile in the filters menu.</p> <p>On the next page, we're going over pratically every tool in Photoshop</p> <hr /> <h3><strong>Tools the Trade </strong></h3> <p><img src="/files/u170397/tools.jpg" width="100" height="546" style="margin: 10px; float: right;" />See that long tray on the left? (Pictured here to the right) That’s your tool set. It might look overwhelming, but it’s actually well organized into different sections. The top section has tools to select and move around parts of the images. One step down is holds brushes to add or remove elements of the image. Below that are tools to add text, shapes, and lines. Bringing up the bottom are navigation instruments and color swatches.</p> <p>We’re not going over every little tool but here are most them. Each is important in its own right.</p> <h3><strong>Transformative tools</strong></h3> <ul> <li><strong>Move Tool (V):</strong> This essentially allows you to move around objects with a simple click-and-drag. To move something, it has to be in an unlocked layer that’s also not the background layer.</li> <li><strong>Transform (T):</strong> Though this isn’t featured as part of Photoshop’s main menu, it’s an indispensable tool that lets you change the size of your image and rotate it.</li> </ul> <h3><strong>Selection Tools</strong></h3> <p>Selection tools are the key to creating a great image. But before we start delineating the various tools, there are a couple of keyboard commands you should know.</p> <ul> <li><strong>Shift + Left Click:</strong> Add to your current selection.</li> <li><strong>Alt + Left Click:</strong> Conversely, this shortcut will subtract from your current selection. </li> <li><strong>Control + D:</strong> one of the most important key combinations you should use to deselect Control + Shift + D: refocus on your last selection.</li> <li><strong>Shift + Control + I:</strong> Inverse selection. A neat trick is to isolate an object from its flat background by selecting every pixel around it and then hitting Control + I, so you have a perfect outline around your subject.</li> <li><strong>Control + D:</strong> Deselect everything.</li> </ul> <p>Now, with further ado, all of the selection tools.</p> <p><img src="/files/u170397/selection.jpg" width="350" height="421" style="float: left; margin: 10px 20px;" /></p> <ul> <li><strong>Marquee tool (M):</strong> This tool lets you highlight rectangular and circular parts of your canvas. Hitting the shift key while you’re moving the cursor will also cause this selection tool to morph into a perfectly square or round shape.</li> <li><strong>Lasso (L):</strong> The Lasso tool is a free-form selection tool that lets you draw lines over the image. When using the regular lasso option, you can create curved lines as long as you’re holding down the mouse button. Once you let go, it completes the shape with a straight line that connects with your starting point. Alternatively, there’s also the Polygonal Tasso Tool, which sketches out only straight lines. Lastly, the Magnetic Lasso will automatically latch on to edges.</li> <li><strong>Magic Wand (W):</strong> One of the easiest selection tools to use because it will select the area you click on as well as any similar pixels around that spot. It can be further fine-tuned by decreasing the tolerance, or if you want to select more of the area, increasing the tolerance.</li> <li><strong>Crop Tool (C):</strong> As the name suggests, this will crop your images. You can either click and drag the exact framing you want or click on the image to create a box over it, which you further adjust by shrinking the sides. Holding down shift while using either method will also preserve the image’s original aspect ratio.</li> <li><strong>Eye Dropper (I):</strong> Want to re-create the same color from part of the image? You can! Move the tip of this tool to the exact pixel you want to copy.</li> </ul> <h3><strong>Fixer-uppers </strong></h3> <p><strong><img src="/files/u170397/brush.jpg" width="620" height="338" /><br /></strong></p> <p>The next set of tools is a more focused on editing pixels and adding spot-on images. Like the Selection tools, there are a few nuances to these tools that it really helps to know. For example, a brush can have a soft head, which means its effect will gradually fade away on the edges rather than coming to a hard stop. Also, keep in mind you can change the overall size of your brush as well as its shape.</p> <ul> <li><strong>Healing Brush (J):</strong> This brush lets you fix small imperfections in your images such as acne or wrinkles, spots of dust, and other small fixes.<img src="/files/u170397/clone_tool.jpg" width="620" height="414" /></li> <li><strong>Clone Stamp Tool (S):</strong> Similar to the healing brush, this tool effectively clones an area. This could be useful for removing a cloud in an otherwise clear blue sky. To use the tool, you'll first have to press the Alt key and click on the area of pixels you want to replicate. After that you can just dab the clone tool on the part of the image you want to fix.</li> <li><strong>History Brush (Y):</strong> Made a mistake? No sweat, this brush lets you paint back in time. For example, if you made the entire picture darker, you could use this brush to selectively peel back your last edit in certain spots. </li> <li><strong>Blur/Sharpen/Smudge:</strong> This is one of Photoshop’s three-part editing tools. Blur rubs out details, making them fuzzier, and soften textures. Conversely, the sharpening tool accentuates the details, making them crisper. Smudge is a interesting tool because it melds pixels together, which makes it almost completey useless for real-life photos. However, the smudge tool might be more applicable for blending colors in art, or perhaps creating wisps of smoke.</li> <li><strong>Gradient Tool (G):</strong> Use the Gradient Tool to create (you guessed it) gradients of color. Once the tool is selected, click and drag the resulting line in the direction you want the color shift to go in. But if you want to mix in more than one color, use the drop-down menu bar toward the top of the screen. This lets you set up complex gradients that span multiple colors; you can also set the gradient pattern.<img src="" width="620" height="414" /></li> <li><strong>Burn/Dodge/Sponge Tools (O):</strong> Another trifecta of editing tools. Burn and dodge will affect the lighting in your image, adding more shadows or more light, respectively. The sponge tool, on the other hand, can be used to change the saturation in your image, making colors richer or grayer.</li> <li><strong>Eraser:</strong> Last but not least, the eraser lets you clean up any nasty edges or mistakes in your images. If you’re working with layers, a sure-fire tip is to use this tool with a soft brush to smooth out the edges between each element of the image.</li> </ul> <h3><strong>Image elements</strong></h3> <ul> <li><strong>Pen Tool (P):</strong> Usually more useful for artists sketching up vector graphics and other art, the pen allows the users to draw freeform and straight lines.</li> <li><strong>Text Tool (T):</strong> Who says Photoshop is only about images? Add some words to the picture.</li> <li><strong>Shapes tool (U):</strong> Add in an assortment of shapes, including rectangles with rounded or sharp sides, circles of all proportions, polygons, lines again, and other custom shapes.</li> </ul> <h3><strong>Navigation tools</strong></h3> <ul> <li><strong>Hand Tool (H):</strong> Giving you a hand getting around the frame, just click and drag to explore the canvas if you’re viewing the image at a high magnification.</li> <li><strong>Zoom Tool (Z):</strong> Speaking of magnification, this is an indispensable part of working in Photoshop. A regular click will zoom into the image, whereas holding Alt while hitting the mouse button will zoom out. With either option you can also hold down the mouse button for a smoother pull and push zoom.</li> </ul> <h3><strong>Shades of the rainbow</strong></h3> <p><strong><img src="/files/u170397/color_menu.jpg" width="620" height="475" /><br /></strong></p> <p>Picking colors adds a whole other subset of options. Once you hit your color swatches on the lower-left of a screen, a new popup window will show an entire color gamut for you to choose from. In the image above, you see a large box that displays red in a wide array of intensities, from washed-out white in the upper-left, plain old black in the bottom-left, and the brightest version in the upper-right.</p> <p>Next to this, there’s also a bar showing all the different hues to chose from. Of course, you can also manually dial in exactly what color you want to work with.</p> <h3><strong>History</strong></h3> <p>The History palette is a magical time machine located in the upper-right of the Photoshop interface. Photoshop records every little move you make; navigating to this small menu allows you to you jump back in time and revert to any changes you made in the past.</p> <p>Read on to see a few things you can do with Photoshop.</p> <hr /> <p>Now that we’ve gotten though the tools, we’re going to put everything we’ve learned to good use and start photoshopping some images.</p> <h3>A basic Photoshop</h3> <p><img src="/files/u170397/photoshopped.jpg" width="620" height="411" /></p> <p>One of the most basic things you can do with Photoshop is joining together two images. Let's start with creating a selection around the object we want to shop into our main image.</p> <ol> <li>Instead of using any old Marquee Tool, we’re going to use the Pen Tool (P), which we'll use to draw a path around the object.<img src="" width="620" height="470" /></li> <li>After the shape is complete, press the A key to bring up the Direct Selection Tool. Click on the image and select Make Selection in the contextual menu. </li> <li>This will create the selection; now, hit the copy shortcut (Control + C).</li> <li>Next up, lets bring up our main image, then paste (Control + V) the object into it.<img src="/files/u170397/photoshop.jpg" width="620" height="341" /></li> <li>Because it’s been added in as a new layer, we can easily move it around.</li> <li>Lastly, we’re going to clean up any harsh edges using a soft-brushed eraser.</li> </ol> <h3>Create a toy box image</h3> <p><img src="/files/u170397/final_tilt_shift.jpg" width="620" height="414" /></p> <p>One of the other cool things you can do simply in Photoshop is simulate the toy box effect typically created with a very expensive tilt-shift lens. This little trick lets you turn an image of the real world into a miniature toy set. Images shot from a tall building or some other elevation down onto a subject area work best. Once you've got your image, here's how to do it in a few simple steps.</p> <ol> <li>After you’ve opened your image, go to Filter &gt; Blur Gallery &gt; Tilt-Shift</li> <li>This brings up a new overlay of three bars, as well as a round center point on your image. </li> <li>This center point should be position over the subject you want to keep in focus. You can also tweak the miniature distortion and blur levels with the settings on the side. To orient the effect, you can rotate the bars or adjust the spacing between them. Once you’ve picked a pleasing effect, go ahead and click OK.</li> </ol> <p><img src="" width="620" height="341" /></p> <p>These next few steps are for an extra bit of gloss, but they’ll make your images pop.</p> <ol> <li>For a bit of vignetting fakery, you could add a new fill layer (found under the Layer menu). Make sure to pick a solid color, preferably black.</li> <li>This will in turn cover your image with a completely opaque layer of black paint, but don’t fret. Simply hover over to the layer’s opacity and bring it down.</li> <li>Next, use the eraser tool with a large soft brush and erase any spots you want to be bright in the final image. <p><img src="" width="620" height="341" /></p> </li> <li>Lastly, go to the adjustments menu and shake up some of the brightness and saturation to really make the image pop.</li> <li>Voilà! You have a great-looking (but fake) miniature photo</li> </ol> <h3>But wait there's more</h3> <p>We’ve barely scratched the surface of all the power behind Photoshop. There's much more that you can do with the program, such as generating vector art and adding selective color to your photos, for a few examples. But this was only a crash course to give you a starting point for all you great projects. Now, get photoshopping!</p> Adobe crash course how to use image editing Media Applications photoshop post processing Software Software Features Wed, 14 Jan 2015 22:49:29 +0000 Kevin Lee 28811 at CES 2015: Roccat Unveils Modular Gaming Mouse Nyth and New Ryos Mechanical Keyboards [Video] <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/roccat_nyth.jpg" alt="Roccat Nyth" title="Roccat Nyth" width="200" height="173" style="float: right;" />A mouse that can be adapted for various video game genres</h3> <p>When it comes to your mouse, you want one that is comfortable to use when it comes to work and playing games. But when it comes to gaming, sometimes a standard mouse isn’t going to cut it. For some consumers, a different kind of mouse that is designed specifically for massively multiplayer online games (MMO) and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games are needed for a more efficient and enhanced playstyle. However, players may no longer have to worry about buying a specific mouse for a certain type of game. At CES 2015, Online Managing Editor Jimmy Thang was able to see <strong>Roccat’s modular gaming mouse Nyth along with the Ryos MK FX and Ryos TKL FX mechanical keyboards</strong>.</p> <p>The Roccat Nyth is the company’s solution to consumers who play games from multiple genres what might want a mouse that can be adapted to enhance the gaming experience when switching from a game like World of Warcraft (MMO) to Dota 2 (MOBA). While designed as an MMO mouse, consumers will be able to transform the MMO layout of the Nyth into a MOBA or FPS layout due to the device’s custom button placement and interchangeable side-parts.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//" width="600" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: left;">But instead of having to purchase different kinds of buttons, though the Nyth will come with two or three sets of buttons according to the rep, those who own 3D printers will be able to print buttons and side-parts from an online file library in order to customize the Nyth (there will also be a third-party service available to print buttons for consumers). Users will be able to add up to 12 buttons.</p> <p>The Roccat Nyth is expected to be out in Q2 or Q3 this year but no price was provided.&nbsp;</p> <p>Meanwhile, Jimmy was also able to check out the prototypes of two new additions to the Ryos series of mechanical RGB keyboards. The Ryos MK FX version excludes the numpad while the Ryos TKL FX is a full-sized keyboard. Both devices feature Cherry MX switches and require two USB ports in order to be used.&nbsp;</p> <p>But regarding the two USB port requirement, Jimmy brought up the fact that Logitech’s keyboard requires only one USB port to be powered and asked the rep why Roccat still requires dual USB ports who replied that it was necessary because of the Cherry MX switches and that the “RGB LEDs are much more power-consuming than the single-color ones.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The Ryos MK FX and Ryos TKL FX are expected to be out in Q3 2015 but no price was forthcoming.&nbsp;</p> <p>What do you think of the Roccat Nyth and its ability to be adapted for various types of video games? Sound off in the comments below!&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> cherry MX mechanical keyboard modular gaming mouse modular mouse RGB roccat Roccat Nyth ryos Gaming News Keyboards Mice Sat, 10 Jan 2015 01:46:32 +0000 Sean D Knight and Jimmy Thang 29232 at Asetek Wins Intellectual Property Lawsuit Against CMI <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/asetek_logo.jpg" alt="Asetek Logo" title="Asetek Logo" width="200" height="188" style="float: right;" />Over $400,000 awarded to Asetek</h3> <p>Back in January 2013, <a title="Asetek website" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Asetek</span></a> filed a suit against CMI USA Inc, formerly known as Cooler Master, for patent infringement on two of the patents held by the company. Asetek requested that CMI must cease and desist the production and sale of its Seidon <a title="MPC Seidon 120M Review" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">120M</span></a>, 120XL, and 240M liquid cooling systems because the pumps were too similar to its own design. On Wednesday, a jury in the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that <strong>CMI had infringed on Asetek’s patents</strong>.</p> <p>Asetek was awarded $404,841, a royalty of 14.5 percent, which was based on CMI’s infringing sales since 2012. The jury decided that CMI was infringing on US Patent No 8,240,362 and, after the trial began, CMI stipulated to infringement of Asetek’s US Patent No. 8,245,764. In addition, Asetek is seeking an injunction against CMI with a trial judge expected to set a hearing soon.</p> <p>“Although it is frustrating to have spent significant time and resources in a courtroom, it is rewarding to be vindicated in this way," said Asetek Founder and CEO André Sloth Eriksen. “We appreciate the value of competition, but it must be done on equal terms. We will not accept anyone blatantly copying the patented solutions that we have worked so hard to bring into the market.”</p> <p>Asetek is also continuing patent infringement cases against CoolIT Systems and AVC over the same two patents that CMI infringed. &nbsp;</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> Asetek CMI CMI USA Cooler Master lawsuit liquid cooling liquid cooling system pump News Water Cooling Fri, 19 Dec 2014 00:11:43 +0000 Sean D Knight 29119 at HP Omen Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A good sign</h3> <p>The word “omen” generally connotes bad juju for most people. For some longtime PC enthusiasts, however, it evokes fond memories of Voodoo PC’s old beautiful and powerful desktops. While HP isn’t bringing Voodoo PC back from the grave, it hopes to pay homage to the Omen namesake by rebirthing it as a modern gaming notebook.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u99720/hpomen.jpg" alt="HP Omen press shot" width="492" height="366" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Omen isn't the most powerful notebook, but it's one of the most polished.</strong></p> <p>Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the 15.6-inch HP Omen is one sleek-looking laptop, with its machined-aluminum chassis. The anodized black finish coupled with its thin 0.8 inch body gives the notebook some added sex appeal. It’s also really portable for its class, weighing four pounds, 11.9 ounces.</p> <p>While we were a little dismayed to hear that it uses a 1080p monitor, something we’ve seen dozens of times over, this isn’t some mediocre display. It uses an IPS panel that features a 72 percent color gamut, which provides beautiful, saturated colors. It also sports a touchscreen, which makes it the first gaming laptop we’ve reviewed that offers one.</p> <p>We were generally pleased with the keyboard, which offers seven customizable color zones that you can tweak using HP’s Omen Control Panel software. The keys themselves offer a satisfying amount of travel and feel quite tactile, as a result. You also get a column of six macro keys on the left side of the keyboard, which is rare to see in a notebook of this size. We weren’t enamored of the Omen’s trackpad, however. Measuring 5.5 inches across, it’s so wide that we often found our resting fingers interfering with our swiping gestures.</p> <p>On opposite ends of the trackpad are a pair of LED lights that pulsate with the sound of your audio. It’s a unique touch that gives the notebook added flair. The speakers themselves are quite good and offer decent volume firepower. Despite being licensed by Beats Audio, a company known for its bass-heavy emphasis, the audio here is balanced.</p> <p>Unlike the sexy chassis, the specs of the laptop aren’t super fancy. It uses a 2.5GHz i7-4710HQ processor for its CPU. For its graphics card, HP went with the GeForce GTX 860M, which is the de facto GPU for thin gaming notebooks. The base model comes with two gigs of GDDR5 VRAM, but ours included four. In regard to system RAM, configs starts out at 8GB, which is fine in most instances, but our maxed-out unit came with 16GB.</p> <p>CPU performance was pretty average, performing ever so slightly faster than our Alienware 14 zero-point’s 2.4GHz i7-4700MQ processor. In GPU perf, we saw respectable gains between 20 and 60 percent. In short, our graphics tests reminds us that the 860M is a midrange card. It will run the majority of modern games at high settings with smooth framerates, but don’t expect to max out games here.</p> <p>While the laptop’s performance didn’t blow us away, neither did its fans (pun intended). The Omen isn’t silent, but it’s very reasonable under load. We’d go so far as to say HP found the perfect balance between performance and acoustics. The laptop is able to keep its cool by using dual fans that pull in cool air from the bottom, which it expels through the back. A benefit of this design is that gamers won’t have to worry about warm wrists.</p> <p>When it came to battery life, the laptop was pretty average. The first time we ran our video-rundown test, the notebook lasted a mediocre 172 minutes. When we turned off all the fancy LED lights, we got an extra half hour. Our biggest concern with the Omen really pertained to storage. While we love the fact that it uses the faster M.2 PCIe standard, we’re a little put off that it doesn’t support traditional hard drives. This means you’re topped off at 512GBs. Luckily, the drive is really fast, and allowed the notebook to boot up in 11 seconds.</p> <p>The Omen may not be the most powerful notebook out there, but it’s extremely polished and well-designed. Everything from its looks, portability, and thermals are top notch. While our decked-out unit cost $2,100, if you’re looking for a more affordable configuration, we recommend going with the $1,800 model, which includes a 512GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, and an 860M with 2GB of VRAM. It’s still a pretty good Omen.</p> Gaming Hardware HP Omen laptop notebook Thin voodoo pc Gaming Reviews Notebooks Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:45:39 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29111 at Logitech K830 Review <!--paging_filter--><p><span style="font-family: Calibri;"><span style="font-size: 15px; line-height: 22px;"><strong>A premium HTPC keyboard with backlighting</strong></span></span></p> <p>People don’t just buy desktop keyboards, they have long-term monogamous relationships with them that last years. Hell, some editors we know just celebrated their fifth-year anniversary with their desktop keyboard (the traditional gift is wood, by the way).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u187432/keyboard.jpg" style="text-align: center;" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The K830 is good but suffers from mushy-key syndrome.</strong></p> <p>It’s not that way with HTPC keyboards, though. No, HTPC keyboards are more like those “business” trips to Thailand. Just look at us for example: Over the last few years, we’ve not only stepped out with an assortment of no-name Bluetooth keyboards, we’ve also had flings with Logitech’s DiNovo Edge, DiNovo Mini, the K400, and even the K700 from Google and Logitech’s ill-fated Google TV product.</p> <p>The latest so-so pretty keyboard to catch our eye is Logitech’s K830. And what a beauty she is. Slightly wider than the K400 at 14.5-inches, the K830 has a feeling of heft and quality that the budget K400 lacks. The sexiest aspect of the K830 is its subtle white LED backlighting. The lighting has four steps: off, low, medium, and high, and once switched on, the volume and mute buttons also light up. Logitech also did the right thing by also illuminating all the characters of the keyboard. A lot of far more expensive gaming keyboards fail to do this, forcing you to guess which shifted keys to press for $#%^, among others.</p> <p>Also much improved is the trackpad, which has a luxuriously smooth surface and is slightly larger than the K400’s. Although we will say if Logitech had pushed the trackpad further into the corner of the keyboard, it would be easier to use the trackpad one-handed, as with the K700. In Logitech’s defense, the K830 is also a little too heavy to one-hand it for long sessions.</p> <p>With the power consumption of the LED, the possibility of running off of AAA alkalines is out—instead, Logitech uses a lithium ion, which charges through micro-USB. Logitech says that gives the K830 about ten days of runtime. That’s pretty poor when you consider that the K400 is rated to run for 12 months off of a pair of AAA’s. Realistically, though, you’re not going to be using the keyboard to type for ten days straight, so we’d expect more along the lines of a month or more, depending on the back-light levels.</p> <p>That brings us to us to the biggest ding against the K830—the actual keys. While the keyboard looks drop-dead sexy next to the K400 and K700, the keys are down-right mushy and just no fun to type on. Yes, you typically won’t be typing more than “Maximum PC No BS podcast” in the search bar of Youtube, but it’s a bit of a heart-breaker that the K830’s key action is its worst aspect. If you’re looking for hot keyboard action for typing-heavy duties, we’d recommend scrounging up an old K700, honestly. We will laude one thing Logitech did, though: The function keys have dedicated functions for such things as launching the browser and search rather than the function + F8 you’d typically find.</p> <p>One other thing to note, the K830 uses Logitech’s Unify USB dongles to connect to devices. Unify lets you run multiple devices simultaneously, which is great. What’s not great are so-called “smart” televisions that don’t support standard USB HID devices. We tried, for example, to hook the K830 up to a new Sony 65-inch Bravia 65W850A and had no joy despite the three USB ports on the set. So, if you intend to use the keyboard with your “smart” TV, we recommend you read the manual first.</p> <p>The last hang-up is the price. At $99, the K830 is far more expensive than its current siblings. But we will say one thing, it certainly looks better and feels better than them, too. It’s also not that expensive when compared to the Dinovo Edge, which sold for $200 minimum when new. Still, it’s not perfect. If Logitech could just combine the keys of the K700, move the trackpad a little farther into the corner, and shed a few grams, this could be the ultimate HTPC keyboard. As is, it’s good but not great.</p> <p>$99, <a href="" target="_self"></a></p> htpc keyboard Logitech K830 wireless Keyboards Reviews Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:55:39 +0000 The Maximum PC Staff 28916 at