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.
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.
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.
Asus has been coming on strong in graphics cards for several years now, though it never offers quite the variety of versions as companies like XFX and EVGA. Typically, Taiwan-based Asus will ship a reference card under its main brand, and then a custom-built, high-end card under its DirectCU brand. At a later date, the company might ship a super-high-end card using the company’s Matrix or Mars sub-brands. Price differences between Asus’s high-end and standard versions are wider, too, so it’s a little easier to figure out which card really is the premium version.
Consider the bog-standard reference-card design. Enthusiasts often sneer at the thought, but the GTX 680 reference design is efficient, quiet, and fast. You often have to spend extra for higher clocks and more fans—and more moving parts and heat often equate to a higher probability of failure.
The EVGA GTX 680 we’re reviewing here is a standard reference card, but EVGA equips it with one of the best overclocking software tools we’ve tested.
You can use Precision to tweak the base clock, Boost clock, voltage, fan settings, and more. The GTX 680 GPU itself offers good overclocking headroom, so a few quick tweaks using Precision should get you 5–10 percent pretty easily.
OUR SHEPARD LOOKS like hell. He’s got shadows under his eyes that’d frighten the seediest of back‑alley dwellers. Even when he smiles—for instance, while warmly embracing an old friend—there’s a palpable weariness to the gesture. This man, this hero we’ve piloted through countless near-apocalyptic trials and tribulations, is at the end of his rope. The Reapers have decided that all organic life is ripe for the picking, and Earth’s looking mighty juicy. Shepard’s got the weight of the entire universe on his shoulders, and little by little, every agonized step forward breaks his back a bit more.
After playing through Mass Effect 3, we look a lot like our Shepard, but for different reasons. We clearly haven’t slept, and basic hygiene has become so foreign a concept that we reply to the word “shower” with, “Yeah, it’s about 4:27 p.m.” Mass Effect 3, you see, is one of those experiences. By no means is it perfect, but it’s a tale so gripping as to have its own gravitational pull. It's Shepard’s darkest hour, and we had no intention of seeing the sun until its credits roll.