Maximum PC - From the Magazine http://www.maximumpc.com/articles/72/feed en Head 2 Head: Android OS vs. Chrome OS http://www.maximumpc.com/head_2_head_android_os_vs_chrome_os_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Google's OSes Duke It Out</h3> <p>Windows is dead. Haven’t you heard? Yeah, right, we don’t believe that for a parsec (although we wouldn’t mind if Modern got swallowed alive by a Sarlacc to be slowly digested alive for a thousand years.) Still, for those who are living in their post-PC fantasy, the OS of choice for computing won’t be based on Windows.</p> <p>Since it has been foreseen that Google will rule the entire world, we decided to put the company’s two showcase OSes up against each other in a epic sibling rivalry not seen since Boromir vs. Faramir, Thor vs. Loki, and Ferris vs. Jeanie Bueller.</p> <h3>Round 1: Price</h3> <p>A large part of Google’s OS success hasn’t been because of its awesomeness. No. Frankly, we think nothing speaks louder than the almighty dollar in this world. But both are “free,” right? So this is tie? Not really. Although Android is technically free since Google doesn’t charge device makers for it, there are costs associated with getting devices “certified.” Oh, yeah, and then there’s Apple and Microsoft, both of which get healthy payouts from device makers through patent lawsuits. Microsoft reportedly makes far more from Android sales than Windows Phone sales. You just generally don’t see the price because it’s abstracted by carriers. Chrome OS, on the other hand, actually is pretty much free. A top-ofthe-line Chromebook is $280, while a top-of-the-line Android phone full retail is usually $600. We’re giving this one to Chrome OS because if it’s generally cheaper for the builder, it’s cheaper for you.</p> <p><strong>Winner: Chrome OS</strong></p> <h3>Round 2: Security</h3> <p>Both Chrome OS and Android are based on Linux, which generally starts out being inherently more secure than competing mainstream consumer operating systems. A Linux kernel doesn’t make it bulletproof, though. If you had to pick between iOS, Windows Phone, and Android for malware issues, Android would be the clear loser. Certainly much of that comes from users opting into malware, pirated apps, and the sheer volume of Android devices out there, but we think it’s fair to say that Android has more security problems. Let’s not even get into stranded tablets and phones that never see security updates pushed to them. To this date, we know of no credible security breaches of Chrome OS, and when holes are found, they’re patched with a speed Android OS users could only dream of. Even the four year-old (ancient!) original CR-48 gets updates within a few weeks, while a $600 phone from 2014 will be ignored for months (if not years).</p> <p><strong>Winner: Chrome OS</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.qs_head.2.png" width="620" height="350" /><br /></strong></p> <h3>Round 3: Usability</h3> <p>Android is regarded as a powerusers operating system. It’s malleable and easily bendable to your every desire. Want a widget that alerts you when it’s time to take a nap in the conference room? Got it. With skins providing device makers’ interpretations on how to make Android “better” (usually for the worse), it’s also pretty damned complicated sometimes. In fact, HTC users can’t easily navigate Samsung devices without some confusion and vice versa. To get lost or confused in Chrome OS would be a feat of unimaginable proportions because there’s just no way to do it. It’s on, off, or in the browser for the most part. And an HP or Acer or Toshiba Chromebook? All the same. Down to the interface and keyboard. In fact, we’d argue that generic feel is another knock against it -- just not in this category.</p> <p><strong>Winner: Chrome OS</strong></p> <h3>Round 4: Sexiness</h3> <p>Here’s something you’ll never hear: “Oh. My. Gawd. Is that the new $200 Chromebook? Can I see it so I can stroke its cheap painted plastic skin?!” Outside of the Google employees given free Pixels, Chromebooks have the sex appeal of geriatric sock garters or Limburger cheese. As much as it’s a bad tech marketing cliché, break out the latest wonder phone with its 4K glassless 3D screen at a party and you’ll get the adoration and attention your lonely soul craves. We honestly don’t see that changing, either, because as much as we’ll say, “Bah, I don’t give two No. 2’s about new phones,” there’s no denying just how mesmerizing it is to check out the latest smartphone in person.</p> <p><strong>Winner: Android OS</strong></p> <h3>Round 5: Application Support</h3> <p>For those who don’t know, Chrome OS is pretty much cloud computing. Websites are your apps, and that, Mr. Nonbeliever, means that every website is technically an app, so there are tens of millions of apps for Chrome OS! So, nyah nyah! The truth is, there are surprisingly more Chrome OS apps that can be run offline and in the browser than you’d expect, but we think it’s fair to say that Android’s traditional client-based computing, locally run apps, is more fulfilling and far better supported than Chrome OS. To us, Chrome OS “apps” still feel like you’re trapped in a browser. Then again, maybe that’s the whole point.</p> <p><strong>Winner: Android OS</strong></p> <h3>And the winner is...<strong><br /></strong></h3> <p>This is a shocker to us, because as power users and people who love complicated hardware and devices, we really thought Android OS was going to walk away with it. After all, most of us have wondered just why the hell Android OS isn’t being used in clamshell devices instead of that weak-sauce Chrome OS. But when you add up the numbers and divide by 16.7, Chrome OS is actually the surprise winner here. Maybe there’s a reason Microsoft is more afraid of Chrome OS than Android OS these days.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/head_2_head_android_os_vs_chrome_os_2015#comments android chrome maximum pc From the Magazine Fri, 27 Mar 2015 23:25:20 +0000 Maximum PC Staff 29384 at http://www.maximumpc.com Velocity Micro Edge Z55 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/velocity_micro_edge_z55_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Compact but fast</h3> <p>It’s never good to whip out a new PC, plug it in, and click the power button, only to have absolutely nothing happen. Nada. Zilch. Zippo. The issue is only compounded when the problem box is a small MicroATX system packed with so much hardware that you can’t even get your hand inside.</p> <p>That’s the problem we faced with the Velocity Micro Edge Z55. Like most review systems we get, it was expedited in shipping, which is a free license for the shipping firm’s employees to dribble it down the tarmac like Shaq going for a slam dunk.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u99720/gutshot.png" alt="Velocity Micro Edge Z55" title="Velocity Micro Edge Z55" width="620" height="432" /></p> <p>Fortunately, that’s when we ran across one of the niftier features of the new MX3 case (a customized Lian Li case) that Velocity Micro uses: A swing-out tray for the liquid cooler. Remove two thumb screws and you can easily swing the Corsair 240mm radiator out of the way. Once we did that we did a quick re-seat of the machine’s power connectors and we were up and running with no issues. It was almost so conveniently fixed that we wondered—with eyes squinting like Philip J. Fry—if Velocity Micro hadn’t intentionally set it up that way just to show off how cool the case is.</p> <p>On the inside, we found Intel’s Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” overclocked to 4.7GHz in a Gigabyte GA-Z97MX board with 16GB of Crucial Ballistix DDR3/1866. Storage duties go to a pair of 250GB Samsung Evo SSDs and a Tosh mechanical drive.</p> <p>A pair of EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Ti cards in SLI handle graphics. The cards use the standard reference Nvidia coolers, which is one of our issues with the Edge Z55. The CPU is liquid-cooled by the Corsair closed-loop cooler, and even though heavily overclocked at 4.7GHz, the acoustics are extremely unobtrusive under a compute load. But crank up a gaming load for long enough, and the fan whir from the pair of 780 Ti cards lets you know this is no silent runner. What’s odd is we’ve long thought Nvidia’s reference design to be very decent considering the performance provided, but here it rains on the quiet performance of the PC under CPU loads. It’s not horribly loud, but we’ve come to expect anything larger than a small form factor box to be extremely quiet.</p> <h4>The BMW of Desktops?</h4> <p>The Maingear Epic Force, for example, which we reviewed in our October issue, packed four GeForce 780 Ti’s in Quad SLI, but was silent thanks to its custom-liquid loop. That same machine, we should point out, cost nearly $13,000, making the Edge Z55’s price tag of $4,300 seem damn near a bargain. It isn’t, but at least the performance is good.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u99720/velobeauty.png" alt="Velocity Micro Edge Z55 beauty" title="Velocity Micro Edge Z55 beauty" width="520" height="773" /></p> <p>Our zero-point PC uses a six-core Core i7-3930K overclocked to 3.8GHz with a GeForce GTX 690 inside. The Edge Z55 surpasses it by more than 20 percent in our benchmarks that aren’t thread-heavy. In Premiere Pro and x264 HD 5.0—both very multi-thread-heavy workloads—the Edge Z55 was slower by only about 3 to 5 percent. That’s pretty good when you remember we’re talking four cores versus six cores. In gaming, however, a pair of 780 Ti cards easily roughs up a GeForce GTX 690. We’re talking about a 100 percent performance advantage in Batman: Arkham City and 69 percent in 3DMark 11 on the extreme setting.</p> <p>But what about something more modern? The pricey Maingear Epic Force, with its CPU at basically the same clock, is just about even with the Edge, so score one for the system that’s a hell of a lot cheaper. In gaming though, the Epic Force’s four cards throat-punches the Edge’s mere pair.</p> <p>We’re really looking at two kinds of computers, however, and two kinds of companies. Maingear is firmly in the boutique sector of PC building. It’s the kind of company that, if you’re a billionaire and want a gaming PC for your kid, you call up and drop $13,000 into a box like most of us put quarters in a parking meter. Velocity, meanwhile, sticks to its mantra that if companies such as Maingear or Falcon make Ferraris and Lamborghinis, VM makes BMWs. That kind of fits here. The Edge Z55 is a nicely adorned, pleasant-looking box, but it won’t get you the same “oohs” and “aahs” as an exotic PC. It will, however, save you a serious chunk of change.</p> <p>We’d prefer it if Velocity could tamp down the GPU noise, and even though it’s a steal compared to a boutique box, it’s still on the pricey side. Otherwise, it’s a solid all-round effort.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/velocity_micro_edge_z55_review_2014#comments Edge z55 EVGA GeForce GTX 780 Ti micro pc pc velocity micro From the Magazine Tue, 17 Mar 2015 18:20:45 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 29603 at http://www.maximumpc.com NZXT Kraken X41 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/nzxt_kraken_x41_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>We like 'em thick</h3> <p>Mostly known for its cases, NZXT has a formula for its closed-loop liquid coolers: make them bigger. When most everyone else was producing 120mm or 240mm radiators, NZXT introduced its 140mm and 280mm CLCs. That allowed NZXT’s units to be quieter than its competitors. But like any first-generation product, it wasn’t perfect. The company responded with the X6—which we reviewed last month and awarded a 9 Kick Ass—and now the X41, which is getting the full MC treatment this issue.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc104.rev_krakenx41.8230.jpg" alt="NZXT Kraken X41" title="NZXT Kraken X41" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The NZXT logo lights up in different colors, according to temperature.</strong></p> <p>Like the X61, this unit’s warranty has been boosted from one year to six years—the longest in the industry. You may scoff at a longer warranty, but when a company stands behind its product for longer, it’s generally a sign it may actually last longer, which can’t be a bad thing. NZXT also upgraded its software to monitor more elements of the system and even allow you to do so remotely. Right now, it’s only possible via another desktop over the Internet, but NZXT has plans to produce mobile apps for Android and iOS, which should be available by the time you read this. Also, like the X61, this unit’s tubing has been extended from 12 to 16 inches for more installation options, and the fans now integrate rubber/silicone mounting points to reduce vibration. Unlike the X61, the X41’s radiator has been thickened from the standard 25mm to 36mm. This larger surface area is supposed to improve cooling, provided the fan has enough static pressure to handle the larger rad.</p> <p>More good news is that CLC installation is even more straightforward than with the X61, because there’s no SATA power connector to deal with. Everything is powered through a 3-pin fan cable that comes out of the block that sits on top of the CPU. You normally need a fourth pin to do automatic fan speed adjustments, but there’s a separate cable that plugs into an internal USB motherboard header. This is how NZXT’s “CAM” software sees and controls the cooler. The fan itself plugs into a splitter cable that can take an optional second fan, and NZXT provides the additional screws you’d need for that scenario. Considering the additional thickness of the radiator, though, you’ll definitely want to measure the inside of<br />your case before going that route.</p> <p>The copper plate that sits on top of the CPU also has the usual pre-applied thermal paste, but we clean that off and apply Zalman STG2 for testing instead. An Intel CPU bracket is installed at the factory, as has become the norm, but you can just whip that off and twist the bundled AMD bracket on instead, if need be. The X41 uses the same adjustable backplate as the X61, and has a sturdier feel than the item used in the previous generation of NZXT CLCs. It might not be metal, but at least the screw threading within the backplate is metal this time, and that long warranty feels reassuring.</p> <p>And like the X61, the X41 is amazingly quiet. Its “silent” mode when idle spins the fan at only 500rpm. Even “performance” mode, when handling our torture-test benchmark, only brings the fan up to 75 percent of its max speed, or 1,500rpm. So, temperatures across the board are noticeably higher than the competition, but you can still manually push the fan all the way to 2,000rpm, if you don’t mind the noise. Unfortunately, the fan rattled a little when pushed past 1,500rpm; it’s a bit tricky to make it totally level, because the rubber mounting points have some give. So if you want raw performance, you’re arguably better off with a Corsair H80i or a cooler with a 240mm radiator. But when it comes to noise level, it’s hard to beat 140mm fans, and hard to beat the X41 in particular.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/nzxt_kraken_x41_review_2014#comments clc fan liquid cooler From the Magazine Tue, 17 Mar 2015 04:26:36 +0000 Tom McNamara 29596 at http://www.maximumpc.com Gaming Mouse Roundup: A Better Mousetrap http://www.maximumpc.com/mouse_roundup_better_mousetrap_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Palm itching for a new high-performance gaming mouse?</h3> <p>We’re going to court controversy for a moment, and say that your mouse is one of the most important parts of your PC. It’s not as central as your CPU and graphics card, or as flashy and obvious as your monitor, but it’s the mouse that’s the primary point of interface between you and your computer. It’s the tool that allows you to direct all of your bleeding edge hardware—your conductor’s baton. And on a more basic level, it’s a device that you’re in near-constant, bodily contact with. It shapes your experience with your PC much more than you likely give it credit for.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.feat_mouse.opener.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p>So, don’t fall into the common trap of speccing out an awesome new rig and then skimping on the peripherals. Even if a top-notch mouse isn’t going to move the needle on your benchmarks, it will have a huge effect on your user experience, and just maybe your k/d ratio in Titanfall. In this feature, we’ve rounded up six high-end gaming mice, and reviewed each on the basis of performance, comfort, build quality, and feature set. This is an excellent crop of mice, so read on, and ask yourself whether you’re due for an upgrade.</p> <h3>EVGA TORQ X10<img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.feat_mouse.evga_.jpg" width="250" height="234" style="float: right;" /></h3> <p><strong>Is this the adjustable mouse lefties have been waiting for?</strong></p> <p>The TORQ X10 is an attempt to take the adjustable gaming mouse concept—which has become very popular in the last three or four years—and apply it to an ambidextrous mouse. Though it sports the modular look, the customization options are limited to increasing the height/arc of the top of the mouse and adding or removing weights. Otherwise, the mouse sports the same assortment of software customization you’d expect from a midrange gaming mouse, including profiles with adjustable sensitivity, key bindings, and lighting effects.</p> <p>We had a couple of issues with the build quality of the Torq x10. The textured top surface feels a little slippery, and the sides of the device are made of a polished black plastic that almost instantly starts to look grimy and gross. The pairs of thumb buttons on either side of the mouse are a bit unresponsive, although the scroll wheel is very nice.</p> <p>The other gripe we had with the Torq x10 has to do with the way you swap out the weights. They’re located in a compartment on top of the mouse, underneath the sheet of plastic that makes up the left and right click buttons. You have to pry on the back of the panel very, very hard to get it to pop off, and it does so with a disconcerting cracking sound. Perhaps because of this strange setup, the clicking action on the two main buttons is a teeny bit less responsive than we like to see.</p> <p>It’s a welcome entry to the market, but unless you’re specifically on the lookout for an ambidextrous mouse with the modular look, this wouldn’t be our first recommendation.</p> <p><strong>Verdict: 7</strong> | $70, <a href="http://www.evga.com" target="_blank">www.evga.com</a></p> <h3>FUNC MS3 REVISION 2<img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.feat_mouse.func_.jpg" width="250" height="226" style="float: right;" /></h3> <p><strong>Pushing the limits of ergonomics.</strong></p> <p>Func is a new entrant into the computer peripheral game, and the MS-3 is one of the fi rst mice it’s released. The MS-3 we received for review is a second revision, which purports to fix a number of issues with the original MS-3.</p> <p>If there’s one notable feature about the MS-3, it’s its shape. We’ve seen mice in more-or-less this confi guration before (check the Mionix Naos in this very roundup, for instance), but never one that’s quite so… grande. The MS-3 is an ergonomic mouse designed for flat-palm grippers, so wide and round that even the large-handed can lay their entire hand, relaxed, on its surface. From the bottom, the mouse looks nearly circular.</p> <p>Beyond its unique shape, the MS-3 is a fairly standard and nicely equipped gaming mouse. It’s got two standard thumb buttons, plus a sensitivity-decreasing sniper button and a bonus thumb button on the fl ange. Up top it’s got a pair of dpi switches and a right-click bonus button. Sensitivity, LED color, key bindings, and macros are all adjustable on a per-profi le basis, with the downloadable utility, and onboard memory means you don’t need an active driver to use these features. The laser sensor performs admirably.</p> <p>But really, it all comes back to ergonomics with the MS-3. If you’re not a complete palm-gripper, or if you have small hands, or if you’re left handed, or don’t like fi nger ridges, or do like light mice, this is absolutely not for you. If, however, you’ve been waiting for a big, meaty, ergonomic mouse, the MS-3 could be exactly what you’re looking for.</p> <p><strong>Verdict: 8</strong> | $60, <a href="http://www.func.net" target="_blank">www.func.net</a></p> <h3>MIONIX NAOS 7000 <img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.feat_mouse.mionix.jpg" width="250" height="222" style="float: right;" /></h3> <p><strong>A mouse for the laser-haters.</strong></p> <p>The Naos 7000 iS a comfortable, ergonomic mouse. Its ridged design give you a place to rest your ring and pinky fingers, and overall build quality is very solid. The primary and secondary click panels are a little narrow for such a wide mouse, but you get used to it quickly, and the clicking mechanism itself is nicely responsive. The mouse wheel is sturdy and requires just the right amount of pressure to move from one click-stop to the next.</p> <p>The Naos 7000 doesn’t pack any surprising extra features, but it does have all the basics covered. It has two thumb buttons, which are nicely placed and have a good clicking action, and a pair of dpi-adjustment buttons on top, which select between three sensitivity profiles. The mouse is plug-and-play, but if you want to customize it you can download an application that lets you choose sensitivity levels, key bindings, and LED color. The Naos has onboard memory, so your settings are used even on another computer.</p> <p>The Naos is known for its optical sensor, which some people claim is superior for ultra-high-performance competitive gaming. We’ve never had any performance issues with high-end laser mice, and in general are more comfortable recommending them for most users. The Naos’s sensor is responsive, and offers an incredibly-strong-for-optical 7,000 dpi sensitivity, but we had major problems with surface detection. Unlike laser mice, which work well on almost any surface, the Naos was unusable on a number of common desk surfaces, and even on one of the hard-surface mousepads we tested it with.</p> <p><strong>Verdict: 8</strong> | $80, <a href="http://www.mionix.net" target="_blank">www.mionix.net</a></p> <h3> <hr /></h3> <h3>CORSAIR VENGEANCE M95<img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.feat_mouse.corsair.jpg" width="250" height="239" style="float: right;" /></h3> <p><strong>A different kind of MMO mouse.</strong></p> <p>The Vengeance M95 iS marketed as an MMO and RTS gaming mouse, and it sports the many customizable buttons usually found on that sort of device. The M95 features two bonus index finger buttons, and a full nine thumb buttons, designed to give you quick access to the many macros and action-bar items used in MMO gameplay. Where some other MMO mice fit all their buttons in a tight grid on the side of the mouse, the M95 spreads them out into a more ergonomic pattern, which curls around a central non-button surface. This surface gives you an easy way to pick up and move the mouse without hitting any buttons, and the ergonomic design makes it easy to find and hit at least four or five of the buttons—an improvement over most MMO mice, where it’s diffi cult to quickly and reliably hit many of the buttons without looking down at the mouse.</p> <p>Build quality is absolutely top-notch, with a solid-metal core and a nice semi-ergonomic design that will work fine with any grip. The scroll wheel and clicking action both feel responsive and durable. It’s very heavy for a wired mouse, so twitch gamers might want to look elsewhere.</p> <p>The laser sensor in the 95 tracks well and offers sensitivity all the way up to “Who even uses this anyway?” 8,500 dpi. The M95’s software is very functional, and allows you to customize the mouse’s profiles, with settings for sensitivity, polling rate, key binding, and macro recording. All in all, a confident, competent MMO mouse, with great build quality and all the features we expect.</p> <p><strong>Verdict: 9</strong> | $80, <a href="http://www.corsair.com" target="_blank">www.corsair.com</a></p> <h3>MAD CATZ RAT TE<img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.feat_mouse.rat_.jpg" width="250" height="229" style="float: right;" /></h3> <p><strong>This RAT’s built for speed.</strong></p> <p>The RAT TE is an offshoot of Mad Catz’ flagship RAT line of mice with a focus on high-performance competitive play. Though from a distance it looks almost identical to the RAT 7, a modular mouse with a luxury feature set, there are actually quite a few changes just beneath the surface.</p> <p>The primary difference is that the TE is a much, much lighter mouse than the previous RAT mice. In those devices, industrial strength, heavy-duty construction was part of the appeal. Here, the entire steel core has been replaced with plastic, and the adjustable weight tray is completely gone. If you’re a fan of light mice, this new RAT should be right up your alley—it’s very quick to slide around, even using only your fingertips.</p> <p>The downside to the new all-plastic construction is that the RAT TE isn’t as confi gurable as its cousins. The length is still adjustable, but the width and height no longer are, and there’s no way to adjust the weight or side panels. The buttons configuration is still the same, and still very good, with two thumb buttons, a large thumb sniper button, and a dpi rocker and mode switch. Even with the all-plastic construction, build quality on the RAT TE feels great, with good clicking action, a nice scroll wheel, and comfortable rubberized finishes.</p> <p>We’d still recommend the metal-based RAT mice for most gamers over this, but if you want something leaner and faster, the RAT TE is an excellent choice as well.</p> <p><strong>Verdict: 9</strong> | $80, <a href="http://www.madcatz.com" target="_blank">www.madcatz.com</a></p> <h3>GIGABYTE AIVIA URANIUM<img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.feat_mouse.gigabyte2b.jpg" width="250" height="152" style="float: right;" /></h3> <p><strong>More flash than bang.</strong></p> <p>One of the traditional drawbacks of a wireless mouse is the need for a receiver to actually plug into your PC. Some mice use a tiny USB dongle for this purpose, while others attach to an on-desk charging station.</p> <p>The Uranium attempts to turn the receiver/charger into a selling point, by attaching a small screen to it. This is hardly the first time we’ve encountered the “put a screen on it” gambit in computer peripherals, but this, to our recollection, is the first time we’ve seen a free-standing screen with a mouse. The screen is black-and-white, and doesn’t run full-on apps like the Razer DeathStalker or the Logitech G19 keyboard. Instead, the Uranium’s screen allows you to monitor the mouse’s remaining battery life and to adjust profile sensitivity and key bindings on the fly, using the scrollwheel on the mouse itself. The desk station also houses a spring-loaded spool that lets you pull out the charging cable when you need it, and fully retracts it when you don’t. It’s a pretty fun feature, but it’s not exactly practical, and because of the screen, the desk station is substantially larger than average, and takes up two USB slots instead of one (though only one needs to be plugged in if the mouse isn’t charging).</p> <p>The mouse itself feels good, with a tall, long shape that’s reasonable for both palm and claw grippers. Most of the mouse is built of a durable-feeling plastic, with a light, rubberized coating on top. Our only real gripe with the construction quality is that the scroll wheel doesn’t feel very good. It’s the type that can be clicked to either side, which opens up some extra key bindings, but leaves the wheel feeling a little loose in its socket. The turning action itself is also a little soft—it’s not a fully clickless track wheel, but it only barely registers each notch.</p> <p>The Uranium is heavy, thanks to the two (included) rechargeable AA batteries in the underside. Standard AA’s work fine as well, so if you need to recharge in a hurry you can just snap in a pair of fresh batteries.</p> <p>The button layout on the Uranium is fairly standard, with two large thumb switches and a pair of bonus buttons accessible to the index fi nger. Behind the scroll wheel (which, as previously mentioned, fits in two extra side-to-side bindings),<br />lets you fine-tune sensitivity and other profile settings on the fly. There’s a rocker switch that controls dpi, a button to enter configuration mode, and a profile switch button.</p> <p>Tracking with the Uranium’s laser sensor is good, with support for up to 1,000Hz polling and 6,500 dpi. We had no complaints about responsiveness or performance, and never experienced any lag over the wireless connection.</p> <p>Most of the Uranium’s customization can be done using only the mouse and the desk station’s screen, but a few of the more advanced options like macro recording and custom screensavers require the downloadable utility. It’s fortunate that you don’t usually need to use the utility, because it’s poorly organized and confusing.</p> <p>It’s a solid mouse overall, but the screen is really just a gimmick, and just doesn’t do enough to justify the top-of the-market $120 price tag. Unless you really want another tiny screen for your rig, you can find a better value elsewhere.</p> <p><strong>Verdict: 7</strong> | $120, <a href="http://www.gigabyte.com" target="_blank">www.gigabyte.com</a></p> <h3>Coming to Grips<img src="/files/u187432/mpc102.feat_mouse.grip_.jpg" width="250" height="170" style="float: right;" /></h3> <p>You'll notice that many of our reviews make reference to a user’s grip style, and you may find that confusing—after all, isn’t there pretty much only one way to hold a mouse? Actually, there’s not, and fi guring out your personal grip style is one of the most important steps in picking the right mouse for you. Here are the three primary ways people hold their mice.</p> <p><strong>Palm Grip:</strong> The most common way to hold a mouse, the palm grip means laying your hand down flat across the whole surface of the device. It’s an intuitive way to use the mouse, and comfortable, though it makes it take a little longer to register a mouse click. In general, any ergonomic mouse is designed for palm grippers, and the shape is meant to comfortably cradle the hand.</p> <p><strong>Fingertip Grip: </strong>Said to give a competitive advantage, the fingertip grip involves holding the mouse with only the tips of your fingers, not touching it with your palm at all. The arched shape of your fi ngers lets you actuate the buttons quickly and control the mouse using minute motions, but it can be difficult to get used to, and some find it tiring. Fingertip users are better served with a shorter, lighter mouse, and should avoid ergonomic mice.</p> <p><strong>Claw Grip:</strong> A compromise between the two above grips, the claw grip involves controlling the mouse with arched fingers, but resting the very bottom of the palm on the butt end of the mouse. Most mice work well for claw grippers, but again you’re better off avoiding ergonomic or very large mice.</p> <p>One other grip-style consideration is how you press the three main buttons on your mouse. Most users place their index finger on the left mouse button and their middle finger on the right, using one or the other for the scroll wheel as needed, but some users place their ring finger on the right button, and use their middle fi nger for permanent scrollwheel duty. If you fall into the latter category, you may find a wider mouse more comfortable.</p> <p><em>This issue was taken from the September issue of the magazine.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/mouse_roundup_better_mousetrap_2015#comments corsair evga Func gaming mice gaming mouse gigabyte Mad Catz mionix From the Magazine Wed, 11 Mar 2015 23:01:02 +0000 Alex Castle 29390 at http://www.maximumpc.com Zalman Reserator 3 Max Dual Review http://www.maximumpc.com/zalman_reserator_3_max_dual_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Size Isn't Everything</h3> <p>Among PC builders, Zalman is practically legendary. The company was the pioneer in the design of beautiful copper air coolers that offered both low temperatures and low noise. In recent years, though, the market has shifted from its “radial” or cylindrical design to blocky stacks of fins and even closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs). The company has been selling conventional CLCs for several years now, but it obviously decided to do something really distinctive with the Reserator 3 Max Dual.</p> <p>What you see in the photo functions similarly to a Corsair H100i or an NZXT Kraken X61. A pump pushes water through a set of tubes, which plugs into a radiator that has fans attached to it to expel heat out of the case. But while the pipes in a conventional PC liquid radiator flow through thin fins, the pipes in the Dual Max take a windy circuit right through the center. Zalman also carries over its radial fin design, instead of using the squared-off rows that we’re used to seeing. The visual impact of this deviation from the norm is immediate and impressive.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.rev_reserator3.1.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p>These two sets of radial fins are spaced a little farther apart than a standard 240mm radiator, so you may need to install the bundled set of brackets to make your screw holes line up correctly—we did on our Corsair 900D case. The process is a bit fiddly and uses a number of tiny widgets, but the manual does a solid job of explaining how everything fits together. It didn’t say which set of screws we were supposed to use, but after a little deductive reasoning, we used the loose ones in the bottom of the bag. The radial fins also stack pretty high; once you include the integrated fans in the measurement of the unit, you’re looking at a height of 73mm, or about 2.9 inches. This is nearly the size of a standard radiator with fans installed on both sides, so there are a number of cases in which this unit simply won’t fit.</p> <p>After finishing installation, we noticed that the pump was noisier than average, even on a low setting, but it wasn’t distracting when the case’s side panel was on. The fans were quieter than normal, considering how much air they were moving—up to 2,000rpm. There’s a 500rpm gap between the two highest speeds in the fan profile, though, so you’ll hear a lot of engine-like revving if your temperature readings are floating on a threshold between the two speed settings. We had to select our speeds manually to avoid this revving. This cooler doesn’t come with software to do that, so you’ll have to control that in your motherboard’s BIOS, or in the Windowsbased fan control software that may come with your board.</p> <p>Unfortunately, even the most aggressive cooling scenario couldn’t keep up with the current top coolers. Under load, the performance of the Reserator 3 Dual Max was better than a tower-style air cooler, but not enough to justify the premium. With Size isn’t everything a street price of $140, you need to make a splash, but this CLC doesn’t cause much of a ripple. The H100i currently goes for $100 and is still one of the best CLCs on the market, and a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo performs within spitting distance of the Dual Max and comes in around $35. While the Dual Max does perform better than air, it’s difficult to recommend it over its competitors.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/zalman_reserator_3_max_dual_review_2014#comments air cooler clc liquid cooler From the Magazine Tue, 03 Mar 2015 06:57:02 +0000 Tom McNamara 29523 at http://www.maximumpc.com NZXT Kraken X61 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/nzxt_kraken_x61_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Its priorities are in order</h3> <p>When you think about it, a closed-loop liquid cooler (CLC) is an odd thing to put in a computer. Tubes full of water, pumping into a radiator? Sounds like something fit more for a car than a PC. Why not just put a standard air cooler in there? To be honest, an air cooler works perfectly fine for most setups. But if you’re prepared to spend $100 or more on this component, and you want to squeeze another few megahertz out of your CPU, something like NZXT’s Kraken X61 can fit the bill beautifully (provided that your case is large enough to accommodate one).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.rev_krakenx61.1.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p>Generally, CLCs come in two radiator sizes: 120mm and 240mm. They use one or more 120mm fans. NZXT, however, usually makes 140mm and 280mm models (though they just announced the X31, a 120mm unit, as this issue went to press). The Kraken X61 is the latter. At first glance, it doesn’t seem much different from their X60. Since that was one of our most favorite CLCs, though, it’s not a bad place to start. NZXT makes a number of improvements with the sequel.</p> <p>One is overall noise. We were already impressed with the X60 (and the 140mm X40, for that matter), but the X61 takes it to a level that we didn’t think possible. Even on its “Performance” setting, with the fans spinning at about 1,400rpm and the pump jamming away at 3,200rpm, all we could hear was the gentle thrum of air passing through its fan blades. You can manually crank the fans up to their max of 2,000rpm and it gets pretty loud, but we only saw a difference of a couple degrees Celsius under load. The fans also have integrated rubber pads now, to reduce vibration.</p> <p>Physical installation hasn’t changed much from the X60. The backplate is still plastic, but it’s more rugged than before. You place it underneath the motherboard and screw in a set of four mounting screws. It doesn’t take more than a minute. A set of four nuts secures the heatsink/pump combo onto the screws, and you can use a standard Phillips screwdriver to tighten the nuts. The fans plug directly into a cable attached to the pump, and there’s a SATA power connector to hook up, and the pump itself has a three-pin cable that connects to the motherboard’s CPU fan header. That last part happens because the pump is PWM-controlled, so it adjusts its speed according to the temperature of the CPU. All the cabling uses high-quality black braided sleeving. And NZXT backs all this gear with a six-year warranty.</p> <p>NZXT’s CAM software is definitely a visual upgrade from its earlier offerings. Lots of big, bold numbers. And it’s expanded from CPU cooler control to also monitor things like hard drive space, GPU temperature, and Internet bandwidth consumption. You can also log into a cloud service and monitor your cooler from another computer. The company was working on iOS and Android monitoring apps as this issue went to press, which should be available by the time you read this.</p> <p>If there is a flaw here, it’s that the X61 could be too quiet for its own good. By default, “Silent” mode will set the fans to a mere 500rpm, even under load. So you get a relatively high load temp of 75 C, though it really is silent at that fan speed. We could double that to 1,000rpm without detecting much turbulence, and our cooling results fell more in line with the competition; tweaking speeds and tracking that effect in the CAM software is pretty easy.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/nzxt_kraken_x61_review_2014#comments clc liquid cooler From the Magazine Tue, 03 Mar 2015 06:13:22 +0000 Tom McNamara 29521 at http://www.maximumpc.com Minix Neo X8-H Review http://www.maximumpc.com/minix_neo_x8-h_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Lots of promise, not as much fulfillment</h3> <p>Every now and then, a product comes along that gives a glimmer of what could be. In the case of the Minix Neo X8-H, that’s the future of using Android mini-PCs as streaming set-top boxes. While the Roku 3 and Apple TV each certainly fulfill their audiences’ needs, folks who crave better input controls and customizability may eventually find that they’ll get their wish without having to shell out serious cash for a DIY HTPC build.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.rev_neox8.1.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p>We had no better demonstration of this than when we fi rst encountered the Neo X8-H’s bundled remote. It has mushy buttons and must be pointed directly at the X8-H for input to register. So instead, we paired our Android Bluetooth keyboard and a Bluetooth mouse to the unit to dramatically increase our speed and accuracy in navigating screens. (You can also plug a standard Windows USB keyboard and USB mouse into the unit via its USB 2.0 ports, but without access to a dedicated “Home” button, it’s not quite as good.)</p> <p>Free access to the Google Play store also meant we could customize the content available on our Neo X8-H. We immediately downloaded Amazon Music with Prime Music, and then took advantage of our keyboard/mouse setup to create a few new playlists; having a scroll wheel made it easy to skim through long song lists designed for a touch interface. Gaining access to videos stored elsewhere on our network through XBMC was also a snap.</p> <p>Besides flexibility, being built on Android OS offers much wider breadth than today’s top-dog set-top boxes: The Neo X8-H’s range of abilities encompasses editing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations via QuickOffice (which comes pre-installed), as well as functioning as a portable hotspot. If you ever want to travel with this Minix, it could be handy for more reasons than just killing time via TV episodes or music.</p> <p>But despite these features, extra goodies like 4K support, and its outer good looks—a satiny, lightly rubberized black finish and rounded edges that balance out its surprisingly large external antenna—the Neo X8-H doesn’t quite deliver as polished an experience as its competitors. Part of this isn’t wholly the unit’s fault: Due to the Android app landscape, some apps only have phone-screen–optimized interfaces (which look a bit silly on a TV), and Amazon has yet to release an app for Amazon Instant Video. Without Silverlight or Flash support in Android OS, you won’t be able to access that catalog of movies and TV shows.</p> <p>But the majority of the issue revolves around the Neo X8-H’s own interface and selection of pre-installed software. Turn it on for the first time, and you’ll have to go through the process of digging into settings and adding a Google account all on your own; there’s no initial setup wizard to run you through it. Its main screen is a very basic, borderline-unattractive 10-foot UI that forces you to either organize shortcuts to Android apps in pre-set folders like “Video” and “Music,” or litter the bottom edge with icons. And barely any apps come pre-installed; of the few notable ones included (like aforementioned XBMC and QuickOffi ce), Netfl ix was the lone representative of the streaming-media services we expected to see.</p> <p>Added to this clunkiness is justpassable performance. Despite posting higher numbers in our benchmark tests, streaming video over Netflix was heavily compressed (even when running it over a fat pipe) and emulated games played through the RetroArch app stuttered. In comparison, our fi rst-generation Nexus 7 had smooth playback in both scenarios. Essentially, you’ll still be able to catch up on Orange is the New Black just fine, but it won’t look as nice—and using the Neo X8-H as a gaming device is currently unattractive. (Particularly since it’s yet to be updated with a driver to support an Xbox 360 controller, something the Nexus 7 natively supports.)</p> <p>At $50 more than its nearest competitors, the Neo X8-H isn’t positioned to win over a majority of households just yet—after all, extra options can balance out a lack of attractiveness, but not so an inability to match other set-top boxes in performance and user experience. Still, it’s a nice example of what features we should be demanding as standard. </p> http://www.maximumpc.com/minix_neo_x8-h_review_2014#comments android mini pc set-top box From the Magazine Tue, 03 Mar 2015 05:31:04 +0000 Alaina Yee 29520 at http://www.maximumpc.com Maingear Epic Force Review http://www.maximumpc.com/maingear_epic_force_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Epic interior—and epic pricing</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">"Epic" is played out today. From epic Dorito flavors to my epic video of the time I slipped on a banana peel and split my pants. In other words, not epic in any way understood, except perhaps some sexual innuendo–laden defi nition written by a drunk college kid on Urbandictionary.com.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.rev_maingear.guts__0.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Fortunately, that’s not the case with Maingear’s new Epic Force, which, well, truly is an epic build. First up, the hardware inside is fairly spectacular, although some might disagree with some of the choices (more on that later). In the graphics department, there’s a pair of AMD Radeon R9 295 X2 cards in CrossFire mode. For the CPU, Intel’s Core i7-4790K aka “Devil’s Canyon” makes its fourth appearance in our magazine.</p> <p>Devil’s Canyon implies the system is built on Z97 instead of X79 (or X99, for that matter), but there’s a feature to Z97 that Maingear takes advantage of. With its six native Intel SATA 6Gb/s ports, Maingear runs four 240GB Intel 730-series SSDs in RAID 0. This would be impossible with X79, which has but two native SATA 6Gb/s ports. The RAID setup gives a nice 1.45GB/s reads with 1.2GB/s writes.</p> <p>The “epic” part in all this is the interior. There’s about 900mm of radiators cooling the CPU, voltage regulator modules, and GPUs. In a move that makes a mockery of this year’s Dream Machine, Maingear runs custom blocks and liquid cooling on the pair of Radeon R9 295 X2 cards. The plumbing for these components is the real joy, though. We’ve seen a lot of impeccable liquid-cooling jobs on a lot of exotic machines, but the Epic Force is now officially the most beautiful we’ve ever seen. The fancy plumbing is also functional—Maingear keeps the loops separated for the CPU and GPU. That way the liquid—or water or red matter—that’s heated up by the GPUs doesn’t heat up the CPU.</p> <p>What about that all-important category of performance? There, the Epic doesn’t break any records. No doubt it’s fast, but it faces some stiff competition. First, the good news: Against our zeropoint with its six-core Sandy Bridge-E CPU and GeForce GTX 690, it reminds us that it’s time to replace our zero point with something faster. Against last month’s Dream Machine, it’s an interesting battle. We compared it to the Devil’s Canyon side of the double Dream Machine and it’s dead even in application performance. In gaming though, DM’s heavily overclocked Titan Z actually gave it the edge. Even worse, the quad-SLI Ge-Force 780 Ti–packing Origin PC Genesis easily outpaced both Dream Machine and the Epic Force in gaming. Again, it’s not to say the Epic Force is slow—it’s blistering fast—it’s just that some other rigs are more, umm, blistery.</p> <p>Still, let’s not ignore the most impressive aspect here: the craftsmanship. The Epic Force exhibits an exquisite attention to detail that’s one of the best, if not the best, we’ve ever seen. Is it worth the exorbitant price Maingear is asking? First, if you’re asking what the price is, you’re not the kind of person it’s aimed at. And, frankly, knowing how much work and how hard it is to build a machine with an interior this impeccable, maybe it is.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/maingear_epic_force_review_2014#comments computer devil's canyon pc From the Magazine Mon, 02 Mar 2015 06:43:26 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 29508 at http://www.maximumpc.com Eurocom M4 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/eurocom_m4_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Turns out 3K is just OK</h3> <p>While 4K may be all the rage these days, we’ve yet to see that resolution grace the screens of our gaming laptop panels. The next best thing, however, may be here. Eurocom’s M4 gaming notebook made its way into our Lab sporting a super sharp 13.3-inch 3200x1800-resolution display. Dubbed 3K, it has a pixel density of 276 pixels per inch (PPI). This makes it poopoo all over Apple’s much-touted MacBook Pro Retina display. What, 227 PPI? Is this 2013 or something?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.rev_eurocom.1.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p>In general, the screen is excellent and the little Ultra HD (UHD) video content out there on the web looks great. Its beauty is aided by the fact that it’s running on an IPS panel, so colors look vibrant and accurate. The visual experience isn’t perfect, however. Because its resolution is so high, many programs are not optimized for it and end up looking super tiny.&nbsp; Furthermore, both Chrome and Steam look incredibly soft on the M4. When we fi red up Steam’s Big Picture Mode, the screen started glitching out and became unusable. It’s clear that many of these programs aren’t optimized for UHD displays and it’s a shame that there isn’t more super high resolution video content out there. Perhaps these issues will be resolved someday, but they’re real gripes today.</p> <p>In addition to the scaling issues, another quandary for ultra-sharp monitors is that they need really high-end GPUs; that is, if you plan to game on them. Powering our Eurocom M4 is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 860M. The card actually runs on the company’s new Maxwell architecture and features a 1,029MHz GPU clock, 2,500MHz memory clock, and has 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM. It’s in the mid-tier of mobile GPUs by today’s standard, but manages to blow away our zeropoint’s older midrange 765M by roughly 30–70 percent in our graphics benchmarks, which is really impressive. For 1080p gaming, it’s great. In BioShock Infinite, we garnered average framerates in the mid-70s on the game’s default medium settings. At 3K, however, it got ugly. The M4 could only muster average framerates in the mid-20s. We fired up Left 4 Dead 2 to see how the notebook would handle a non-taxing game and we actually got low-40s average framerates playing the game maxed out. While this is technically playable, we’d probably opt to lower the res for a smoother experience. In general, we’d crank this down to 1080p resolution for the majority of today’s games so that you can run them with more bells and whistles turned up while getting a smoother framerate.</p> <p>While the GPU may not be the highestend card out there, our overall confi guration still rang in at $2,319, which is by no means cheap. That said, it did come with good components. Inside the relatively small 13.2x9.9x1.28-inch chassis is an Intel quad-core 3GHz Core i7-4930MX, which can turbo up to 3.9GHz, and 16GB of DDR3/1866 RAM. At $1,096, the CPU itself accounts for almost half the price of the notebook. In our CPU tests, the M4 performed between 5 percent to 9 percent better than our zeropoint’s Core i7-4700MQ. In terms of storage, our unit came with a 120GB Micron M500 mSATA SSD, and for mass storage, a 1TB 7,200rpm HDD. In the battery department, the M4 comes with a 6-cell lithium ion, which lasted over 3.5 hours in our video rundown test. Rounding out the chassis, we have a competent backlit keyboard and trackpad with two dedicated buttons.</p> <p>In general, the M4 has a lot going for it, but it does have its fair share of issues. While the laptop never got hot, it did get plenty loud when we were gaming. In addition, the speakers are weak, and it didn’t help that the headphone jack would randomly not work at times. The M4’s biggest issue, however, is its price. Spending over $2K for halfway-optimized 3K may not be worth it for many.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/eurocom_m4_review_2014#comments 4k laptop From the Magazine Mon, 02 Mar 2015 06:14:07 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29506 at http://www.maximumpc.com Divinity: Original Sin Review http://www.maximumpc.com/divinity_original_sin_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A flawed but challenging RPG romp</h3> <p>If you’re looking for a modern-day recreation of the Baldur’s Gate series—or, really, any of those isometric Infinity Engine games of yesteryear—then Divinity: Original Sin might appear as if it has the potential to satisfy your old-school gaming urges, at first glance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/feature.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>In many ways, it does. It’s a delightfully deep roleplaying game that puts you in “control” of two characters at once. That’s really a bit of a gimmick; you still do the oldfashioned RPG technique of telling one person to go here or there, with the rest of your four-person party following in step. Your two characters interact frequently, which makes for a bit of a surrealist moment when you go to decide what each says to the other (and how their relationship ultimately unfolds). Those of you who don’t like talking to yourself will likely prefer the game’s AI options for conversations.</p> <p>If you’re creative, you can make this interaction work even better for you. We often enjoyed “decoupling” our four-person party and having three stand in front of an important NPC and hold its focus while the fourth, our expert thief, looted everything in the room that wasn’t bolted down. No, we weren’t actually playing the game as an “evil” party. However, massive thievery—art theft, specifically—is one of the major ways to quickly earn cash in the game.</p> <p>Baldur’s Gate, this ain’t. Don’t expect to go steamrolling through crowds of baddies with no issues whatsoever, amassing all sorts of loot and unique weaponry along the way. First off, the game’s combat is completely turn-based. Battles take time. Each character in combat has initiative, which determines in what order they fight throughout combat—we completely missed the “delay turn” button on the right side of the game’s screen, which might have come in handy during some of our tougher tactical encounters.</p> <p>About those. We found Divinity: Original Sin to be a bit tough. We’re n ot quite sure if it’s the game’s turn-based aspect, the makeup of our party, or what. It was a bit annoying to roll a fighter/tank as one of our main characters, only to receive a free fighter/tank as the first of the two total NPCs that can join your travelling party. But, we didn’t figure that would be huge detriment as we progressed our way through the early stages of the game.</p> <p>We were wrong.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u187432/mpc103.rev_divinityos.2.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Our fearless warrior ponders whether to open a chest with a lockpick or bash it to pieces.</em></p> <p style="text-align: left;">This is definitely an area that developer Larian Studios needs to address with player character DLC packs (or free add-ons), as message board post after message board posted seemed to indicate that our party makeup was ill-advised. We felt the effects of that in one of our first major battles outside of the game’s “first act” city of Cyseal, where we were thoroughly decimated by a party of eight-to-ten undead creatures. Reload. Decimated. Reload. Decimated.</p> <p>We eventually got past our predicament by running through every side quest we could find in an attempt to level our characters as much as possible prior to heading out once more. We also turned to the game’s unstable economy—namely, the ease at which one can steal fairly expensive items and barter them with anyone around—to outfit our folk with as much fancy gear as we could (but shouldn’t be able to) get our hands on. Nevertheless, having a combat roadblock so early on in the game did sap some of its fun, and might very well have overtaken our interest in continuing forward were we not reviewing the title.</p> <p>In outfitting our party, we were forced to deal with the game’s fairly cumbersome UI. Those familiar with the aforementioned isometric RPG titles (or role-playing games in general) should know the deal by now: drag-and-dropping gear onto your paper doll characters from your semi-chaotic inventory, et cetera. Since Divinity: Original Sin allows for co-op multiplayer, that means that Larian Studios has decided to treat all of your characters as if they are separate individuals, inventory-wise.</p> <p>For solo gamers, inventory management is a huge pain in the butt. Only one character’s inventories can be used to barter with merchants at once, and gold reserves are individual to each character (no group “gold account,” as is typically seen in multi-character RPGs). This forces you to frequently exchange your sellable goods between multiple characters as you’re going about the buying process. You can’t do this by dragging-and-dropping items onto character portraits; you have to right-click each item and “send it” to a particular character.</p> <p>Even the bartering process itself is irritating. If you could only just quick-sell items in your inventory (Diablo-style) by rightclicking on them when talking to a merchant. To transact anything in the game, you have to move the items you want to “sell” to the left-most portion of the bartering window. You then click the items you want on the other side.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u187432/mpc103.rev_divinityos.1.jpg" width="620" height="350" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em>Perhaps a paring-down of some of the items within the game might have been better...</em></p> <p style="text-align: left;">We spent a good chunk of our game using a merchant’s “gold” icon and a slider to set an exact price for our goods. We appreciate the manual control, but didn’t realize that the “scales” icon in the game’s bartering window would do that for us until we completed far too many transactions.</p> <p>While we appreciate that Divinity: Original Sin doesn’t hold one’s hand that much as far as questing goes, we would have preferred a little more help for navigation. Some buildings are marked on your map when you uncover them, but not all. A pin-drop quest marker only shows you where you might want to go for the main story quest. Your logbook-slash-journal keeps records of what you’ve been up to, like most typical RPGs, but it isn’t always crystal-clear about how to finish up some side quests, nor where you might want to start looking if you haven’t even uncovered much of the map. Going door to door to find key characters and locations seemed to take forever in the early part of the game.</p> <p>We greatly enjoy Divinity: Original Sin’s treatment of the environment, however. The game constantly encourages you to monkey around with everything around you, be it throwing and exploding barrels filled with flammable gunk, rearranging furniture to find hidden buttons for secret rooms, or bashing down locked things that, in other games, would require the delicate touch of a thief to get past. We often found ourselves looking at combat with much more strategy in mind than we would other titles; of course, as we mentioned, we still had a tendency to get beat up.</p> <p>Divinity: Original Sin is hardly a flawless title. Its single-player annoyances might turn gamers off at first, but its creativity, challenges, and puzzles are worth pushing toward. This isn’t the game we’d give to RPG newcomers, but veterans will appreciate the good that comes with the bad—especially if a few patches fix up some of the title’s quirks.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/divinity_original_sin_review_2014#comments action pc rpg From the Magazine Mon, 02 Mar 2015 04:15:07 +0000 David Murphy 29505 at http://www.maximumpc.com