NZXT’s second air cooler, and they still can’t spell ‘havoc’
NZXT DIDN’T ENTER the CPU cooling game until quite recently. We reviewed its first cooler, the skyscraper Havik 140, in December 2011. The Havik 140’s dual 14cm fans helped it power to the top of our air-cooling charts, though the slightly cheap-feeling mounting bracket kept it from Kick Ass Award status. NZXT’s second air cooler is the smaller, less expensive Havik 120.
What, this old thing? Cooler Master’s Hyper 212 Evo is the new‑and‑improved version of our standby CPU cooler. It’s just $35 and offers performance far exceeding other coolers in its price range, so it’s the first thing we reach for when we build a new budget-conscious rig. Given that LGA2011 CPUs don’t come with heatsinks, the Evo is the closest thing we have to a stock cooler, and it will be the standard against which all other Sandy Bridge-E coolers are judged.
We used to say that iBuypower should really be named iStealpower, because we’ve never understood how the company can sell such well-configured systems for such low prices. With its new Erebus line, iBuypower is maintaining its low-price strategy while stepping upmarket to compete with boutique vendors. Is the Erebus priced low enough to purchase on a whim? No, but considering what iBuypower packs into the rig, it’s a pretty good deal.
First up: The Erebus uses a custom NZXT-built case that takes its cues from Corsair’s groundbreaking 800D. Not to be upstaged, the Erebus case is almost an inch or two bigger in all dimensions, and it’s designed to be jam-packed with rads. The Erebus we reviewed had a massive quad radiator plus two dual radiators—with room for more. The Erebus case is designed for water cooling, and that quad radiator is integrated into the top of the unit with a plug you can use to top off its reservoir. It’s an impressive case, with the only major ding against it being its pass-through USB 3.0 cables—that’s so 2011. You’ll be hard pressed to find a new motherboard that doesn’t use internal USB 3.0 headers.
THE DISPLAYS IN HP’s TouchSmart series top out at 23 inches. To get anything bigger, you must move over to HP’s Omni all-in-one lineup. The upper limit here is a ginormous 27 inches, but you won’t get that slick touch user interface, and you’ll need to sacrifice performance to keep the price tag in the same $1,250 neighborhood occupied by the TouchSmart 520-1070 we reviewed in March. We’re not convinced those are good trade-offs.
Both models feature an HDMI input that allows you to use the display independent of the computer, and that’s easily one of their best features. Plug in a set-top box or a gaming console, and the machines can serve double duty as a computer and a 1080p display for watching TV or playing games. There’s just one problem: You can’t use the wireless keyboard to control or mute the volume when the computer is being used solely as a display. Instead, you must push the PC/Game mode button to bring up an onscreen control panel, press the minus button three times to select the volume control function, and then repeatedly press the plus or minus buttons to adjust the volume. To mute the volume, you must turn it to zero—which takes 14 button presses from full volume—or switch the display back into PC mode. That will drive you nuts at every commercial break and every time the phone rings.
WHEN LOOKING FOR a tagline that will easily sell a boatload of Acer Timeline M3 notebooks, it doesn’t take much more than: “an ultrabook that will play Battlefield 3 on Ultra setting.” And it’s true, too.
The Timeline M3 will indeed play BF3 on Ultra, provided you’re comfortable with 30 frames per second. That dips a bit below our thresholds for a shooter. We preferred playing Battlefield 3 on High, which gave us 50–60fps in online play. Granted, we were only playing at the 1366x768 native resolution of the machine’s 15.6-inch panel, but that’s pretty good for a so-called ultrabook.
We say so-called ultrabook because even though it’s within the very loose parameters set by Intel, a lot of people who encounter the Timeline M3 aren’t going to think this widescreen notebook is an ultrabook. Most people equate ultrabooks with PC clones of a MacBook Air. But the definition is broader. Ultrabooks must be within a certain height, run a certain proc, reach a certain battery life rating, and come out of hibernation in a certain amount of time. The Timeline is wide—just shy of 15 inches across—so wide that it has enough space for an optical drive. There’s even room in the Timeline to sport a 7mm, 2.5‑inch drive bay. Acer doesn’t use the bay, though, instead opting for a teeny-but-fast SATA 6Gb/s Lite-On SSD in mSATA trim. Storage hogs hoping to use both bays will be heartbroken—installing a drive in the 2.5-inch bay turned off the mSATA drive.
Western Digital releases a new Raptor drive every couple of years, and each time the performance and capacity increase while the price for the highest-capacity model stays around $300. This year’s iteration finally breaks 1TB, but the VelociRaptor remains caught between increasingly fast 7,200rpm drives and increasingly capacious SSDs. Is it the best of both worlds, or the worst?
Like the previous two generations of VelociRaptor, the WD1000DHTZ is a 2.5-inch drive spinning at 10,000rpm, mounted on an “IcePak” cooler/3.5-inch drive adapter. The latest version has 64MB of cache (up from 32MB) and up to 1TB of storage (up from a maximum of 600GB). Despite its 2.5-inch form factor, it won’t fit in a laptop—the drive is far too thick and power hungry. So far, so unsurprising.
A straightforward, rock-solid keyboard for FPS gamers
CORSAIR IS aiming at the very top of the gaming keyboard market with its Vengeance line—two boards with exquisite build quality and luxury price tags. The FPS-oriented K60 may be the cheaper of the two, but it still comes in at more than $100 MSRP, and will never be accused of feeling cheap.
In fact, the primary draw of the K60 is its elegant, simple design. The keyboard’s thin, heavy foundation has a brushed-aluminum face, and houses the mechanical Cherry MX Red switches in a unique non-recessed configuration that leaves no place for dust and crumbs to collect. The nicely spaced keycaps are rugged-feeling with a very light texture. We prefer the clicky Cherry MX Blue switches for typing, but the smooth Reds only require a light touch and provide an excellent, highly responsive gaming experience. Interestingly, Corsair seems to have opted to save money by using membrane switches for the function and navigation keys, giving the keys a non-uniform feel.
IF THEY HAVE first-person shooters in martial arts Valhalla, we’re pretty sure Tribes: Ascend is the one Bruce Lee plays. First and foremost, it’s a game about movement. In a split second, you have to judge where your jetpack-propelled, lightning-quick opponent is, where they’re going to be, and what you should do about it. You have to instinctively go with the flow, all the while never missing a beat. You must, well, be as water. Water with a jetpack. As a result, Tribes simply feels wonderful—not to mention unlike anything else on the market. Sure, it’s basically a shinier Tribes 2, but you won’t hear any dismayed cries of “Shazbot” coming from us.
What worked in previous Tribes games is in top form here. Footing it from place to place is—as you’d expect in a game subtitled “Ascend”—suicidal, so forward motion is all about deftly mixing aerial acrobatics and inertia-based “skiing.” In short, your jetpack can only play little-engine-that-could-defy-physics for a few seconds, at which point gravity rudely yanks you into free fall. Combined with Tribes’ trademark hilly terrain, however, that velocity can be transformed into your best friend instead of transforming you into paste. Simply hold the space bar to ski—typically at speeds in excess of 100 mph—in whatever direction you were headed. Shouting “wheeeeee” while going down ultra-steep inclines is optional, but encouraged.
FOR THE FIRST TIME in a very long time, our Best of the Best pick in the wireless router category does not bear the Netgear brand. Asus’s new RT-N66U not only beats Netgear’s WNDR-4500 in almost every benchmark, it also delivers more features, a better user interface, and a more attractive industrial design.
Let’s examine the feature set first. Like the WNDR-4500, the RT-N66U is a dual-band model capable of supporting three 150Mb/s data streams simultaneously (450Mb/s on both the 2.4- and 5GHz frequency bands). Unlike Netgear’s router, the RT-N66U delivers external antennas that can be removed and upgraded—a feature that has become uncommon on mainstream wireless routers. The external antennas helped Asus’s router deliver fantastic range: The RT-N66U delivered more than double the throughput when our test client was outdoors at its farthest distance from the router.
You got your full-featured Windows PC in our touchscreen tablet device!
AS IT ONCE AGAIN steals all the bestselling-tablet glory, the new iPad can lay claim to the highest pixel density per inch of any tablet display. But it can’t—nor can any Android tablet—identify as a full-fledged PC. Anyone hankering for a handheld touchscreen device with no compromises in computing capability should seek out something like the Samsung Series 7 11.6-inch Slate PC.
With an Intel Core i5-2467M, 11.6-inch LED‑backlit display, and 64-bit Windows 7 Home Premium, the Series 7 Slate PC fully serves as a home or mobile machine in the guise of a 10-finger-sensitive touchscreen tablet. The 128GB SSD model we tested costs a pretty penny compared to lesser tablets, but includes a helpful dock/cradle and Bluetooth keyboard. A 64GB model shaves the price down to $1,099.