Features http://www.maximumpc.com/taxonomy/term/31/%252Farticle/features/a%20href%3Dhttp%3A/%5Bhtttp%3A/article/features/tech_champions_15_geek_heroes_movies_and_tv en Rig of the Month: Toaster PC http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_toaster_pc_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/9gkc19u.jpg" alt="Toaster PC" title="Toaster PC" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />This is no joke; toasters are PCs too</span></h3> <p>This month's <strong><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014" target="_blank">Rig of the Month</a></strong> is a bit of an oddball. It's no <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/bit.ly/1mVCGQ4" target="_blank">DotaBox</a>&nbsp;or <a href="http://bit.ly/1h3LcHG" target="_blank">Weighted Companion Cube</a>, but we still think it's pretty awesome. Anthony Febre was inspired when someone asked if he was running a toaster. It's not the most original insult, but it makes for an amazingly original case mod.&nbsp;</p> <p>There's honestly not that much to it. Anthony says that the whole setup cost a measly $20 (minus all of the actual components) since all it required was a toaster. Inside the Proctor Silex toaster sits an Intel Core i3-530 on top of an Intel DH55TC mATX motherboard. It's not exactly a powerhouse, but it'll do the job with 4GB of Crucial DDR3-1333 and an XFX Radeon HD 7750.&nbsp;</p> <p>All we know is that he's got an amazing comeback to potential toaster jokes. Anothony apologizes for the less-than-stellar photos and blames his phone's camera.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Have a case mod of your own that you would like to submit to our monthly feature? Make sure to read the rules/tips&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_roundup_2014" target="_blank">here</a>&nbsp;and email us at&nbsp;<a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; background: transparent;" href="mailto:mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcrigofthemonth@gmail.com</a>&nbsp;with your submissions.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/rig_month_toaster_pc_2014#comments Anthony Febre case mod computer maximum pc Rig of the Month rig of the month toaster Toaster PC Features Tue, 30 Sep 2014 17:34:54 +0000 Ben Kim 28573 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Porn (September 2014): Remember Me, Mass Effect 2, and More http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_september_2014_remember_me_mass_effect_2_and_more <!--paging_filter--><h3><span style="font-weight: normal;"><img src="/files/u162579/3ydcjll.jpg" alt="Mass Effect 2" title="Mass Effect 2" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />Showcasing the sexiest, most photogenic game screenshots this side of the Internet</span></h3> <p>We're short on submissions for this month's Graphics Porn so we've reached out to some more of the folks from <a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/gamescreens" target="_blank">r/GameScreens</a>&nbsp;to supplement the gallery. We've got some amazing screens from Remember Me, Skyrim, Metro Last Light, Euro Truck Simulator, and more!</p> <p><em><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">Whether you've been using&nbsp;</span><a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;" href="http://store.steampowered.com/news/5047/" target="_blank">Steam's nifty screenshots feature</a><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">&nbsp;or simply print screening some beautiful wallpaper-worthy game moments, we want to be able to share your captured works of art with the world. If you think you can do better than the pictures submitted below, please email your screenshots to&nbsp;</span><a style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; outline: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; color: #cc0000; text-decoration: none; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px; background-image: initial; background-attachment: initial; background-size: initial; background-origin: initial; background-clip: initial; background-position: initial; background-repeat: initial;" href="mailto:mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com" target="_blank">mpcgraphicsporn@gmail.com</a><span style="font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">&nbsp;so we can show them off. Make sure to include the name of the game, a title for the screenshot, and a description of what's happening on-screen.</span></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/graphics_porn_september_2014_remember_me_mass_effect_2_and_more#comments beautiful Euro Truck Simulator Graphics Porn maximum pc Metro Last Light pictures Remember Me screenshots Skyrim Features Mon, 29 Sep 2014 20:21:20 +0000 Ben Kim 28574 at http://www.maximumpc.com Graphics Analysis: Metro Games Stock vs Metro Redux Versions http://www.maximumpc.com/should_you_buy_metro_redux_bundle_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u166440/4a_games_logo.jpg" alt="4A Games" title="4A Games" width="200" height="174" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>We compare the Metro game series to its visually updated counterparts</h3> <p>If you are a fan of single-player FPS games, then you should check out the Metro series. Metro 2033, based on the novel by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky, was developed by 4A Games and released in 2010 while its sequel, Metro: Last Light, came out last year. Both survival-horror games are set in post-apocalyptic Moscow where survivors of the nuclear fallout live within the underground metro system.</p> <p>It's a bleak setting where ammunition is your currency, which makes for some interesting dilemmas at times.&nbsp;</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/Ow-EOZbP3Rc" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Check out our video comparison comparing the stock version of the Metro series with its Redux counterparts above.</strong></p> <p>But is it worth purchasing the Redux Bundle if you already have the original games? We took the time to compare the original with its Redux counterparts to help you find out.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_ll_comparison_004.jpg" alt="Metro LL 004" title="Metro LL 004" width="600" height="336" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Sit back, grab a drink, and please don't shoot us</strong></p> <p>We gave both games good scores with <a title="MPC Metro 2033 Review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/reviews/metro_2033_review" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Metro 2033</span></a> earning seven out of 10 and <a title="MPC Metro: Last Light Review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/metro_last_light_review_2013" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Metro: Last Light</span></a> receiving an eight. But even so, on August 26, 4A Games released re-mastered editions of both games for the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC platforms. Metro 2033 Redux is a rebuilt and upgraded version of the original game that takes advantage of the latest 4A Engine. For Metro: Last Light Redux, 4A Games said that it made some tweaks and included all of the DLC released for the game, along with new features and gameplay modes.</p> <p>Curious as to how much of a visual upgrade both Redux versions have received, we compared the original games to its Redux counterparts. To do that, we used our personal PC which was equipped with an AMD Phenom II X4 965 processer, 8GB of RAM, and a Nvidia GeForce GTX 780. Our overall goal was to evaluate the look of both versions and discuss how they performed relative to each other. We also made sure to run each game at the same settings, where possible, so that we would get consistent results. See our settings in the image below.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_2033_settings_002.jpg" alt="Metro 2033 Settings" title="Metro 2033 Settings" width="600" height="233" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Left: Metro 2033 settings - Right: Metro 2033 Redux settings</strong></p> <p>All four games were run in 1080p and quality set to "Very High," which is the highest setting for the Metro games. Mindful of those who may not have the best GPU out there, we kept SSAA to ensure good performance. However, Metro 2033 was a little tricky since we had to make sure that it was running DirectX 11 to keep it on par with the Redux version (recommended settings for the Redux edition requires a DX11-compliant GPU). Gamma settings were also kept the same at the default level.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_ll_settings_001.jpg" alt="Metro LL Settings" title="Metro LL Settings" width="600" height="232" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Left: Metro: Last Light - Right: Metro: Last Light Redux</strong></p> <p>With Metro: Last Light and Redux, it was much simpler to keep the settings as similar as possible since there has only been about a one year gap between both titles. That, and there were not a lot of options to tweak.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_2033_comparison_002b.jpg" alt="Metro 2033 Comparison 001" title="Metro 2033 Comparison 001" width="600" height="408" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>4A Games changed character models and even sequences for Metro 2033</strong></p> <p>It should come as little surprise to anyone that we saw a huge improvement when we played both versions of Metro 2033. The Redux version was not only a vast improvement with sharper graphics, but also featured enhanced visuals, tweaked gameplay, reworked environments, better lighting, re-worked character models, new animations, and better enemy AI. Suffice it to say, the differences really showed in the visuals.</p> <p>We also saw a noticeable difference when it came to performance, but in a suprisingly pleasant way. We discovered that the Redux version averages a higher framerate than the original. For example, in our experiential test, traveling through the market in Metro 2033 averaged 83FPS while the Redux version of the same location averaged a higher 95FPS. Given that the recommended specs for the remastered edition requires 4GB RAM and DirectX 11 or higher compared to the original’s requirement of 2GB RAM and DirectX 10 or higher, it seems that 4A Games has done a great job of not only upgrading the game, but optimizing it to use higher-end hardware as well. This was something that was needed since some of the complaints about Metro 2033 involved it being a poorly-optimized resource hog.</p> <p>As you can see in the next image, Metro 2033 Redux features different character models, sharper textures, and brighter lighting compared to the original 2010 game. In Redux, there is also a bit of lens flare and the goggles, which your character must wear when he ventures outside, has distinct drops of water on the edges rather than this weird blurry liquid effect in the original game.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a title="Metro 2033 comparison GIF" href="http://gifmaker.cc/PlayGIFAnimation.php?folder=2014092401e3EmUCBkS67tKlhUawZyk7&amp;file=output_vMH7dQ.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_2033_comparison_003a.jpg" alt="Metro 2033 comparison" title="Metro 2033 comparison" width="600" height="335" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Click Image for an animated GIF comparing Metro 2033</strong></p> <p>But while we are impressed at the large improvements that were made for Metro 2033, Metro: Last Light is another matter. Rather than Metro: Last Light Redux being an all-out remastered edition, think of it as more of a Game of the Year edition. It’s great that all the DLC is bundled with the game, as well as additional content, but there are hardly any visual differences between the original and Redux version’s graphics that we are able to discern except that the Redux version looks a little brighter.</p> <p>Even the average FPS count isn’t that different between each version. Both Metro: Last Light and Redux averaged around 80FPS when we compared the first 25 minutes of the game with each other. The original ended up averaging 82FPS and the Redux edition 86FPS which, given we ran a purely experiential test, is within the margin of error.&nbsp;</p> <p>Take a look at the following image and you tell us if there is any visual differences between the two versions.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a title="Metro LL Comparison GIF" href="http://gifmaker.cc/PlayGIFAnimation.php?folder=2014092402uyTcULxKzA9KB0kWAUgR5f&amp;file=output_YJ9NlT.gif" target="_blank"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_ll_comparison_001a.jpg" alt="Metro LL Comparison" title="Metro LL Comparison" width="600" height="326" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Click image for an animated GIF comparing Metro: Last Light</strong></p> <h3>Benchmarks:</h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u166440/metro_chart_002.jpg" alt="Metro Chart" title="Metro Chart" width="600" height="371" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Here is the chart showing you the average FPS recorded of all four games side-by-side</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">As stated earlier, the biggest difference was seen between Metro 2033 and its Redux counterparts thanks to the latest 4A Engine, graphics upgrade, and optimization. Meanwhile, the difference between Metro: Last Light and the Redux version was nominal considering not much had been changed between either version.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">So to those of you who don’t own any of the Metro games, we would recommend that you pick up the Metro bundle simply for the story, atmosphere, and the graphics. If you own Metro 2033 and appreciate high-quality graphics, then you should seriously consider picking up the Redux version. But if you own Metro: Last Light, then we would suggest refraining from purchasing its Redux counterpart unless you really want the DLC and extra content.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/should_you_buy_metro_redux_bundle_2014#comments 4A Games Metro 2033 Metro 2033 Redux Metro Last Light Metro Last Light Redux Redux Bundle Redux editions Gaming News Features Fri, 26 Sep 2014 22:47:08 +0000 Sean D Knight 28612 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Personal Computers of the 1980s http://www.maximumpc.com/personal_computers_1980s <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u99720/apple_macintosh.jpg" alt="80s Mac" title="80s Mac" width="250" height="167" style="float: right;" />Travel back in time to the decade that kick-started the home personal computer boom: the 1980s.</h3> <p>Hands up if you owned a computer in the 80s! After making some tentative steps in the late 70s, the 1980s saw home computing really take off. Back then, no young adult’s bedroom was complete without a computer, tape deck, and trusty joystick on display.</p> <p>Home computing proved to be so popular it seemed like every company wanted a slice of the digital pie, with model after model released on an annual basis, all vying for dominance in the ultra-competitive marketplace. </p> <p>Some efforts, such as the Commodore 64 and Spectrum, were hugely successful and went on to sell millions. But for every success story there were many more that failed to make the grade, with some models even being released and then going out of business the same year.</p> <p>Here, Maximum PC presents 25 of the most memorable and noteworthy computers of the 1980s. Join us as we relive the golden age of home computing.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/personal_computers_1980s#comments 1980s 80s Computers Amiga atari Commodore maximum pc Old School pcs retro Features Wed, 24 Sep 2014 23:16:38 +0000 Mark Pilkington 28395 at http://www.maximumpc.com 9 Things We Want in Windows 9 http://www.maximumpc.com/09_things_we_want_see_windows_9 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u69/windows_8_scribbled.jpg" alt="Windows 8 Scribbled" title="Windows 8 Scribbled" width="228" height="158" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>We want better 4K support and more from Windows 9&nbsp;</h3> <p>If we're being totally, completely, 100 percent honest, we settled for Windows 8. That's not easy to admit, especially after applying some well needed Updates (previously known as Service Packs) that zapped some of our original complaints. Don't get us wrong, it never was, nor is it still a terrible operating system -- the comparisons to Windows ME or even Windows Vista's early days are off base -- but certainly Microsoft didn't have our best interests in mind. By "our interests," we're talking about power users, enthusiasts, and generally anyone tech savvy enough to know the difference between RAM and a hard drive. Hell, Windows 8 designer <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/windows_8_designer_offers_candid_explanation_metro_and_why_power_users_hate_it_2014">Jacob Miller admitted as much</a> several months ago (Microsoft's good at <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/exclusive_interview_microsoft_admits_what_went_wrong_with_vista_and_how_they_fixed_it">coming clean after the fact</a>).</p> <p>Truth be told, Microsoft catered to the lowest common denominator -- the ones who call you up every 3-4 weeks because their PC is riddled with pop-up ads again -- and attempted to hold their hands as Redmond walked them through its vision of what would one day become a beautiful walled garden where new and experienced users frolicked happily among the colorful tiles singing songs of praise. Our apologies if you just threw up in your mouth a little bit.</p> <p>Here's the thing -- we've grown accustomed to Windows 8, and having spent copious time with it, we no longer feel the rage we once did every time the Start screen would load. That's partially because we're now able to boot directly into the Desktop, but the bigger reason is the one we stated above. We settled, plain and simple.</p> <p>With that said, <a title="windows 9" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/microsoft_schedules_windows_9_event_september_30_2014" target="_blank">Windows 9 is on the horizon</a>, and this is Microsoft's chance to atone for Windows 8 and earn back some street cred with power users. It's a do-over, and no, it's not too late. If Windows 9 comes out and blows our minds with levels of awesome we've never seen before, all will be forgiven (just as we've done before). But in order for that to happen, Microsoft has to get it right.</p> <p>That's no easy task, so to help our friends at Microsoft, we came up with a list of 9 things we want to see in Windows 9. Are you reading this, Redmond? Good, because these 9 wishlist items conveniently assembled into a photo gallery collectively represent your golden ticket back into our good graces. Let's begin!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/09_things_we_want_see_windows_9#comments 4k support features gallery microsoft operating system OS Software threshold Windows windows 9 wishlist News Features Mon, 22 Sep 2014 22:06:08 +0000 Paul Lilly 28547 at http://www.maximumpc.com Build a PC: Recommended Builds (September 2014) http://www.maximumpc.com/build_pc_recommended_builds_september_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Budget, baseline, and performance PC builds!</h3> <p>What time is it? It's time to Build a PC with our Blueprints! This month, we've built three rigs at three approximate price points: Budget Gamer, Mid-Grade, and Turbo. Budget Gamer gets you respectable performance without bruising your wallet, Mid-Grade gets you something beefier and more adaptable, and Turbo is an investment-grade powerhouse.</p> <p><em>Prices listed here reflect print time</em>&nbsp;and may not match the ones you find elsewhere online. In addition, Newegg has jumped on board to offer packaged deals for each of the builds below in an attempt to offer a better overall value. To see these bundle prices, click the "Buy or get more info at Newegg" button at the bottom of each build. Feedback is welcome. Tell us what you think!</p> <p><em>Note: Some of the prices/links listed below may not show up properly if this page is ad-blocked.</em></p> <h2 style="text-align: center;"><strong>BUDGET GAMER</strong></h2> <div style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u160416/210_elite_black.jpg" alt="NZXT Source 210 Elite computer case" title="NZXT Source 210 Elite computer case" width="242" height="300" /></div> <div style="text-align: center;"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;" colspan="3"><strong>Ingredients</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Part</strong></td> <td><strong>Component</strong></td> <td><strong>Price</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Case</td> <td class="item-dark">NZXT Source 210 Elite</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146078&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$50</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>PSU</td> <td>Corsair CX500, 500 watts</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817139027&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$30</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Mobo</td> <td class="item-dark">Biostar TA970&nbsp;</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813138372&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$60</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>AMD FX-6300 3.5GHz</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819113286&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$120</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU Cooler</td> <td>Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835103099&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$36</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>Sapphire Dual-X Radeon R7 265</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814202096&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$153</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>2x 4GB Crucial Ballistix Sport DDR3/1600</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148662&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner">$86</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td>Crucial MX100 256GB</td> <td><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148820" target="_blank">$110</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>Seagate Barracuda 1TB&nbsp;</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148840&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$65</a></td> </tr> <tr style="text-align: right;"> <td style="text-align: left;"><strong>Total = $710<br /></strong></td> <td style="text-align: right;" colspan="2"><strong>Click here to see the live bundle price:</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.1870368&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-Combo-1870368-Budget-_-MaximumPC_BluePrint-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBannerMid-Range" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/omega_maximumpc/img/newegg.jpg" alt="buy online at newegg" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;"><span style="text-align: center;">You could drop the SSD and get a nicer video card. If that's your preference, we'd recommend a Radeon R9 285, or a <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/geforce_gtx_760_benchmarks">GeForce GTX 760</a>. We prefer having an SSD, because it makes booting Windows and loading programs super-fast. The huge data transfer speeds (up to 550MB/s in some scenarios) aren't bad either. We've bumped our SSD up from a 128GB <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/samsung_840_evo_1tb_review">Samsung 840 Evo</a> to a 256GB Crucial MX100, because you double your capacity for about $30 dollars. Other than that, we think we have a pretty good balance of price and performance. Some people might scoff at a $50 case, but the Source 210 Elite is actually surprisingly sturdy and roomy for the price. We've changed our RAM due to price fluctuations.</span></p> <h2>MID-GRADE</h2> <p><img src="/files/u160416/c70_green.png" alt="Corsair Vengeance C70 computer case" title="Corsair Vengeance C70 computer case" width="228" height="300" /></p> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;" colspan="3"><strong>Ingredients</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Part</strong></td> <td><strong>Component</strong></td> <td><strong>Price</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Case</td> <td class="item-dark">Corsair Vengeance C70</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811139013&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$108</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>PSU</td> <td>EVGA SuperNOVA 850 G2 220-G2-0850-XR&nbsp;, 850 watts</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817438018&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$100</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Mobo</td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128707&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$175</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>Intel Core i5-4690K</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819116899&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$240</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooler</td> <td>Enermax Liqtech 240</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835214058&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$95</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>Sapphire Tri-X OC R9 290 4GB&nbsp;</td> <td><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814202080" target="_blank">$400</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>2x 4GB G.SKILL Ares Series&nbsp;F3-1600C9D-8GAO</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231544&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$72</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Optical Drive</td> <td>Samsung SH-224DB/BEBE DVD Burner</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827151266&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$20</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td>Crucial MX100 256GB</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820148820&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$110</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>Seagate Barracuda 1TB ST1000DM003</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148840&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$65</a></td> </tr> <tr style="text-align: right;"> <td style="text-align: left;"><strong>Total = $1385<br /></strong></td> <td style="text-align: right;" colspan="2"><strong>Click here to see the live bundle price:</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.1870369&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-Combo-1870369-Mid-Range-_-MaximumPC_BluePrint-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/omega_maximumpc/img/newegg.jpg" alt="buy online at newegg" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p style="text-align: left;">We're shaking things up a bit and bumping this tier up from about $1,100 to $1,400. That allows us to squeeze in a nice closed-loop liquid cooler like the Enermax Liqtech 240 (scored a 9 in our August issue), upgrading from the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo (which is still a very nice air cooler). We also upgraded from a <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_radeon_r9_280x_dc2_top_review">Radeon R9 280X</a> to a Sapphire Tri-X OC Radeon R9 290. The 280X is a refresh of the last generation, while our 290 GPU is based on all-new silicon. We've changed our power supply from Silverstone to EVGA to accommodate price fluctuations. Previous EVGA PSUs had split 12-volt rails, while its newer units are unified. The latter design makes it easier to deliver lots of power to high-end gear.</p> <h2>TURBO</h2> <p><img src="/files/u160416/phantom530-1.jpg" alt="NZXT Phantom 530 computer case" title="NZXT Phantom 530 computer case" width="300" height="300" /></p> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;" colspan="3"><strong>Ingredients</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Part</strong></td> <td><strong>Component</strong></td> <td><strong>Price</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Case</td> <td class="item-dark">NZXT Phantom 530</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16811146107&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$130</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>PSU</td> <td>XFX P1-1050-BEFX, 1050 watts</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16817171076&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$180</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Mobo</td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte GA-Z97X-UD5H</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128707&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner">$175</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>Intel Core i7-4790K</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16819117369&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner">$340</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooler</td> <td>NZXT Kraken X61</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16835146042&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$140</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>2x SAPPHIRE TRI-X OC Radeon R9 290</td> <td><a href=" http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16814130951&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$800</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>4x 4GB G.SKILL Ripjaws F3-12800CL9Q-16GBRL&nbsp;</td> <td><a href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820231315&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$150</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Optical Drive</td> <td>LG WH14NS40 Blu-ray Burner</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16827136250&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$70</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td>Samsung 840 Evo 500GB MZ-7TE500BW</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820147249&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$260</a></td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>Seagate Barracuda 3TB ST3000DM001</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148844&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$110</a></td> </tr> <tr style="text-align: right;"> <td style="text-align: left;"><strong>TOTAL = $2355<br /></strong></td> <td style="text-align: right;" colspan="2"><strong>Click here to see the live bundle price:</strong>&nbsp;&nbsp;<a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.1870370&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-Combo-1870370-Turbo-_-MaximumPC_BluePrint-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/omega_maximumpc/img/newegg.jpg" alt="buy online at newegg" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p class="MsoNormal" style="text-align: left;"><span style="text-align: center;">We are bumping this tier up from about $2,000 to $2,500, and we're doing away with the roughly $4,000 "Ultra" build for now. We're not changing very many things, though. The Intel Core i7-4790K is a muscular and well-rounded chip, and 16GB of RAM is for multi-taskers and virtual machines. One change is the CPU cooler. We want to use the NZXT Phantom 530 case's sheer size. That's where the NZXT Kraken X61 comes in. Its 280mm radiator can dissipate heat more quickly than the 240mm rad of the <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/corsair_h100i_cpu_cooler_review">Corsair H100i</a> that we're replacing. The X61's larger fans also move more air with less noise and its six-year warranty is also a nice bonus. The other big change is going from one Radeon R9 290X to two SAPPHIRE TRI-X OC Radeon R9 290s. AMD had issues with micro-stutter in the past when running multiple video cards, but that's mostly solved now. Since a 290 is roughly equal to an Nvidia <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/geforce_gtx_780_benchmarks">GeForce GTX 780</a>, two 290s can scale all the way to 4K gaming</span>.</p> </div> http://www.maximumpc.com/build_pc_recommended_builds_september_2014#comments 2014 affordable blueprint budget Build a PC cheap computer performance Recommended Builds september Features Tue, 16 Sep 2014 23:32:57 +0000 Maximum PC Staff 28548 at http://www.maximumpc.com Restore Your Computer to its Glory Days http://www.maximumpc.com/restore_computer_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Give your PC a clean start</h3> <p>If you’re reading this, it’s highly likely that your PC is a fine-tuned piece of 64-bit technology, customized to the hilt and purring like a kitten with a belly full of formula. Yup, she’s a beaut, and attacks your daily tasks like a Belgian Police Dog going after a fleeing perp. All is well in the world, until one day when you sit down, fire it up, and realize something is different. That extra bit of snap when programs open is missing, and encoding video seems to take longer than it used to. Even downloading files seems to require more patience than you’re accustomed to exhibiting. It’s at this very moment that you silently say to yourself, “What the FRACK???”</p> <p>First things first—calm down, power user. Before you smash your rig with a hammer, pound on the keyboard, and decide to just nuke it from orbit, realize it’s just a temporary slowdown and it happens to everyone, even Maximum PC editors. Over time, PCs get slower; it’s just the nature of the beast. Don’t fret, we’re here to help by showing you how to give your PC a clean start. We'll show you how to restore you computer to its glory days, if you will. We’ll walk you step-by-step through the cleaning process, showing you what you need to get ’er done, and if you find you can’t resolve the problem, how to properly nuke it from orbit. We’ll also detail—pun intended—physically cleaning your rig. Once you’re finished, your PC will be noticeably perkier and everything will be right as rain. Now, drop the hammer, and let’s get started.</p> <h3>Back it up and kick the tires</h3> <p><strong>The only person to blame for not having a backup is you</strong></p> <p>There’s only two kinds of storage devices in this world: those that have already died and those that are going to die. If you’ve already identified that your PC is acting wonky, it’s time to back that mother up. It may seem counterintuitive that you would run a backup before you do a PC cleanup, but we highly recommend it: If you break something or something finally gives up the ghost, you’ll kiss your USB ports that you made a backup before it all went sideways. There are numerous aftermarket tools, but Microsoft has been kind enough to give you a fairly powerful backup and imaging tool in the OS itself. If you’re using Windows 7, just search for Backup, or dig into the Control Panel and look under System and Security. If you’re using Windows 8.x, the backup system is the same, although it’s hidden. To find it, go to the Control Panel and search for Windows 7 File Recovery.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gordon_backup_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gordon_backup_small_0.jpg" alt="The Windows backup and restore program works well enough, and should be run regularly." width="620" height="547" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Windows backup and restore program works well enough, and should be run regularly.</strong></p> <p>If you have multiple drives, you can choose how you want the backup to run, and manually select the other drives in the system for the backup set. You should set an automatic backup as well, and create a system restore disc. Ensure that you created a system image, also, should you need to restore the backup to a completely new hard drive.</p> <p>With your backup complete, it’s time to do a basic visual inspection of the internals of the PC for obvious problems, such as fans clogged with so much cat hair and dust that they’re causing the CPU or GPU to overheat and throttle, or data or power cables that have wiggled loose. Typically, loose or unplugged cables result in immediate show-stopping errors and crashes rather than a system slowdown. You’re more likely to find your fans clogged with dust running at low RPMs or fans that have died.</p> <h3>Mash Malware</h3> <p><strong>Don’t always blame malware, except when it’s to blame</strong></p> <p>If there’s a bogeyman of mysterious system slowdowns, it’s malware. In fact, if we had a nickel for every time a relative told us a “virus” was the cause of their slowdown, we’d have 0.08-34 of a Bitcoin. With that said, before you get too hip-deep in trying to speedupify a PC, a sweep for malware should be run. We’d also do a cursory examination of the OS for extraneous toolbars or tray items that have been installed. These aren’t truly malware, but still worthy of eradication.</p> <p>We’d also recommend a full system scan by the system’s real-time AV software (after updating the virus definitions). A secondary sweep using various on-demand tools is also on the to-do list. This would include browser-based file scanners available from all of the popular AV vendors, as well local tools such as Malwarebytes (www.malwarebytes.org) or SuperAntiSpyware (<a href="http://www.superantispyware.com/">www.superantispyware.com</a>). Running specific rootkit removal tools available from companies such as Malwarebytes and Sophos, among others, can’t hurt. Rootkits are a class of malware designed to thwart normal detection means. Before you get crazy about removing any detections, you should research it to make sure it isn’t just a false positive. And be advised that many types of malware can’t be removed with a single-click tool. You’ll typically have to dig deep in a multi-page guide to remove many of today’s specialty infections. Obviously, Binging will lead you to most guides, but a great place to start is Bleepingcomputer.com. The site has loads of removal guides and links to useful tools. But again, a word of warning: don’t just start ripping things out of the OS without knowing what you’re removing.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gordon_rootkit_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gordon_rootkit_small.jpg" alt="A thorough check for malware is recommended before any serious system cleanup." title="Mash Malware" width="620" height="516" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A thorough check for malware is recommended before any serious system cleanup.</strong></p> <h3> <hr />Cruft clearing</h3> <p><strong>Declutter the system files</strong></p> <p>Any PC that you use daily will build up hundreds of gigabytes of file clutter over the months and years that you use it. As most people are rolling large mechanical drives, the clutter has an impact on performance and your ability to pack away even more cute kitten videos downloaded from the Internet.</p> <p>For this step, we’ll start with the low-hanging fruit. Simply open My Computer, right-click your primary drive, and select properties. Click Disk Cleanup and check off the things that are clutter (just about everything is in this panel) and click OK. We did this on a work box and shaved off 5GB in Windows Update files that had been sitting around. While 5GB isn’t much in the day of 4TB drives, many people still run 1TB and smaller drives with every nook, cranny, and sector filled (you know who you are.)</p> <p>The next easy cruft targets are the system restore points automatically created by Windows. Windows typically creates these snapshots of the OS when you install a new driver, OS update, or application. Windows sets a default for these based on the size of the drive it’s installed on, but they typically occupy gigabytes on the drive. To free up space, you can delete all but the latest restore points by clicking the More Options panel from Disk Cleanup, and selecting Clean Up under System Restore and Shadow Copies.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/cruft1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/cruft1_small.jpg" alt="The built-in disk cleanup does a decent first pass at dumping unneeded system clutter." title="Cruft clearing" width="500" height="612" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The built-in disk cleanup does a decent first pass at dumping unneeded system clutter.</strong></p> <p>Before you do this, though, think about how the recent stability&nbsp; of your system. If it’s been reliable but slow for the last few months, wiping the previous restore points should be fine. But if the system is being wonky, you may just need to rely on those restore points to get the box back to a point where it’s stable, so we’d recommend keeping the old restore points until you’re sure the box is working. You should also be aware that Windows 7 and Windows Vista used System Protection and Restore Points to occasionally make backup copies of your personal data files through the Volume Shadow Copies service. These older versions may be purged when you do this, but it won’t touch your most recent versions.</p> <p>Yeah, we know, many power users will thumb their nose at System Restore and some will outright switch it off because malware can use it as a place to hide, but the feature can truly be a bacon-saver sometimes.</p> <p>Another easy target to clean out is the default downloads folder. Other than documents, the vast majority of downloaded files can usually be dumped overboard.</p> <h3>Clean the Crap</h3> <p><strong>CCleaner is an easy-to-use, one-stop declogger</strong></p> <p>Originally named Crap Cleaner, this handy application has since been renamed to the more palatable CCleaner, but it still works amazingly well at clearing out the junk from the corners of your OS. Available for free from http://bit.ly/MPC_CCleaner, it’s an easy one-stop shop for freeing up space that you might normally miss with the built-in cleaner. As much as we like CCleaner, you shouldn’t expect miracles. We ran it on a three-year-old scungy build of Windows 7 after running the Window’s cleaning routine and CCleaner came up with 18.3GB to clean out—16GB had accumulated in the trash bin. One word of warning: By default, CCleaner will wipe out your browser cookies, which might throw you for a loop when you’re forced to sign into web sites that you may have forgotten the passwords for. It’s probably best to exclude browser history and also Windows Explorer Recent Documents from the CCleaner clean-out, too, because they don’t net you much space but make your system more livable.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ccleaner_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ccleaner_small_1.jpg" alt="CCleaner still does an admirable job of emptying out unneeded files." width="620" height="546" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>CCleaner still does an admirable job of emptying out unneeded files.</strong></p> <h3>Stop Startups</h3> <p><strong>Giddyap quicker</strong></p> <p>Oddly, many people still define their computing experience by how long it takes to cold-boot their PC. First, we just have to ask, have you tried standby or even hibernate? You know, those handy modes that can have you at the desktop five or 10 seconds after touching the mouse button or keyboard? No? You still prefer to boot from cold, anyway?</p> <p>If your OS install is a year or two old, you will have accumulated enough startup programs to significantly impact hard-drive boot times. The easiest way to remove these programs is click on the Start button, and type msconfig. Click on the Startup tab and scroll through the list, looking for things that don’t need to be started at launch. Uncheck them, click apply, then OK, and reboot.</p> <p>One thing to remember, Windows 7 will optimize the boot times automatically. If you reboot, and wait five minutes and reboot four or five times, the boot times should actually get better automatically as Windows 7 decides what it can prioritize.</p> <p>Windows 8.x (yes, haters, step back) actually improves upon boot times, as well. Anyone who has used the new OS can attest to its fast boot times. Win8 moves startup optimization to the Task Manager (ctrl-shift-esc). Click on the Startup tab, and Windows 8 will even tell you what’s slowing things down, and give you an estimate of how long it took to boot after the process was handed over to the OS.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/msconfig_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/msconfig_small.jpg" alt="You can manually deselect programs that start up from msconfig to speedify your boots." width="620" height="414" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You can manually deselect programs that start up from msconfig to speedify your boots.</strong></p> <p>Those of us who have moved on to the SSD-based western shores of Valinor live lives fairly well untroubled by slow startups. But those poor souls of middle earth still using mechanical-based drives are the ones who need to concern themselves with startup optimization.&nbsp;</p> <h3> <hr />Consider an upgrade</h3> <p><strong>Hardware isn’t always the answer, but it usually is</strong></p> <p>The vast majority of our tips to clean up a slow-running PC can be solved in software, but sometimes software isn’t the answer. How will you know the difference? One of the clearest indicators is age. Old PC components do not age like wine. If you’re at your buddy’s house to “take a look at his computer” and that computer is a Pentium 4 or Athlon XP, it’s a lost cause.</p> <p>So, while most newbs you’re trying to help can still benefit from the cleaning tips in this story, the P4/Athlon XP machines aren’t going to sing no matter how much you tune them. Putting money into a hardware upgrade for these old dogs should be carefully weighed: new parts can be difficult to locate and everything in the box is suspect.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/p4.northwood_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/p4.northwood_small.jpg" alt="Unless you’re in the retro computing club, we’d recommend dumping that Pentium 4 box." title="P4" width="620" height="496" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Unless you’re in the retro computing club, we’d recommend dumping that Pentium 4 box.</strong></p> <p>It’s not so bad for a Phenom II or Core 2 box. In fact, these machines can be quite workable if the user has realistic expectations. Dropping an SSD into a Phenom II or Core 2 rig would be a game-changer for these old platforms, even if the motherboard doesn’t support the full SATA 6Gb/s speeds. Sometimes, a little RAM will even help, if the box was already memory-starved to begin with. With a 64-bit OS, 8GB is standard and 4GB is borderline.</p> <p>If gaming needs a boost, dropping in a newer GPU can certainly help. Even those rigs that are constrained by low-wattage PSUs now have a modern option with Nvidia’s new Maxwell series, which can run on even 300W PSUs.</p> <p>If the machine is also running that now-abandoned OS, Windows XP, an OS upgrade to Windows 7 or even Windows 8 is advised.</p> <p>Obviously, we don’t recommend $400 in upgrades on a $200 PC, but a $100 upgrade on a box that buys the person another 24 months of use can be a godsend for those on tight budgets. As we said, though, everything at or below the P4/Athlon XP line should be abandoned.</p> <h3>Visualize your drive</h3> <p><strong>Think of WinDirStat as Google Maps for your HDDs</strong></p> <p>You’ve cleaned up the extraneous system files on your machine, but the real junk is the gigabytes of nothingness you’ve collected from repeatedly dumping that 32GB memory card onto the hard drive because you were afraid to delete something you might need later. Six months later, those same unkempt files are bogging down your system and freeloading on your dime. When space gets tight, we turn to WinDirStat (<a href="http://www.windirstat.info">www.windirstat.info</a>).</p> <p>In the past, when drives were smaller and your file-hoarding was limited to a mere 500GB or so, you could rely on the good old-fashioned search-and-destroy technique: browsing through Windows Explorer for old photos, games, and files that you simply don’t use anymore. With 3TB and even 4TB drives packed with god knows what, that technique isn’t effective anymore. Instead, use Windows Directory Statistics, or WinDirStat, to help visualize and locate files on our drives that can be slated for termination. WinDirStat is an extremely lightweight (less than a megabyte) open-source program that scans your hard drive to provide you with three sets of information: directory list, tree map, and file extensions list. The tree map—easily the most attractive feature in the program—represents every file on your hard drive as a colored rectangle. Also handy is the extension list, which gives you total percentages calculated by file extensions.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/windirstat_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/windirstat_small_1.jpg" alt="We dig the simple and effective representation of our hard drives from WinDirStat." width="620" height="349" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We dig the simple and effective representation of our hard drives from WinDirStat.</strong></p> <p>The tree map is the handiest and helps you easily see where you have bloat on your drives—the bigger the file, the bigger the rectangle. Scrolling over files displays the file name and its location, and you can delete files from within the program by selecting a file and pressing the delete key.</p> <h3>Dedupe it</h3> <p><strong>Duplicate often </strong></p> <p>Most people treat hard drives like the attic or garage. Rather than immediately culling extra files, you simply put it in storage to deal with at a later date (the road to hell, good intentions, etc). No matter that you already put those files in storage just last week—you’ll get around to dumping the duplicate files eventually. While there are many, many deduplication tools available, one good starting place is Auslogic’s free Duplicate File Finder app (<a href="http://www.auslogics.com/en/">www.auslogics.com</a>) It doesn’t have the bells or whistles of apps that analyze audio, photo, and video for duplicates, but it works fairly fast and is a good way to eliminate the obvious duplicate files. On one old Windows 7 box, Duplicate File Finder turned up a good 39GB of dupes that could be tossed. Simply fire up Duplicate File Finder, have it search your drive, and it will give you a list of duplicate files. Under Action, select All Duplicates In Each Group, and it will mark the duplicate files for dumping into a trash can, or moving into the Rescue Center, where you can recover the file if you realize later on you made a mistake.</p> <p>The program works well enough, but we wouldn’t wipe out files willy-nilly without first making a separate backup and making sure that the irreplaceable files going away are actually duplicates. DFF will show you the file name, file size, and creation date, which gives most people enough confidence to delete, but the paranoia in us would want to visually confirm it, too. This same philosophy is probably what brought us to this space issue in the first place. After all, am I sure I really did copy all of the images from the memory card to the computer? Even the ones I took last weekend? I’ll just make another copy... I have plenty of space.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/duplicatefilefinder_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/duplicatefilefinder_small.jpg" alt="Duplicate File Finder can quickly, er, find your duplicate files." title="Duplicate File Finder " width="620" height="484" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Duplicate File Finder can quickly, er, find your duplicate files.</strong></p> <h3>Optimize your storage</h3> <p><strong>Storage is usually the prime suspect in system slowdowns</strong></p> <p>Before we get started discussing problems with your storage system and how to optimize it, make sure you have done two things: First, that you’ve connected your SSD to a SATA 6Gb/s port on your motherboard (consult your manual), and second, that you’ve enabled AHCI on your SATA controller via the motherboard BIOS. If you’ve already installed Windows and your SATA controller is set to IDE instead of AHCI, hit Google to find the registry hack to fix it. And yes, running in IDE mode rather than AHCI on a modern SSD can indeed rob you of performance.</p> <p>With that out of the way, the first thing to do when you sense your system is slowing down and you see your hard-drive activity LED churning constantly, is enlist the trusty three-finger salute. For the uninitiated, that means pressing ctrl-alt-delete to bring up the Task Manager in Windows. Select the Performance tab to see if anything is spiking or is nearing 100 percent utilization. From there, you can go to the Processes tab to see which process is taking up all those resources. In the screenshot below, we see a staff member’s work PC that suffered daily paralyzation at the hands of a virus scan and several associated processes. The resolution was to kill the processes, then make sure to schedule the virus scans during non-work hours.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ssd_optimize_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ssd_optimize_small.jpg" alt="Both Samsung and Intel offer free “tuning” software that helps keep your SSD running in tip-top shape. " width="620" height="467" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Both Samsung and Intel offer free “tuning” software that helps keep your SSD running in tip-top shape. </strong></p> <p>If everything looks fine in the Task Manager but the system still feels slow, run a few benchmarks to see if the numbers are up to spec. For sequential read and write tests, we recommend Crystal-DiskMark for SSDs and HDTune for Hard drives. Admittedly, none of us use HDDs for our OS anymore—there’s no reason to with SSD prices falling faster than the value of Bitcoin.</p> <p>If you run the benchmarks and find the performance is lacking on your SSD, you have a few options. Your first is to optimize the drive via the Trim command. What this does is send a command to the drive that tells it to run its garbage-collection routine, which means it will erase all the blocks that have been deleted, clearing the way for them to receive fresh writes. If the drive has not been trimmed in a while, data can become fragmented all over the drive, and since blocks of an SSD have to be erased before they are written to (as opposed to a hard drive, where they can just be overwritten at any time), a simple write command can require the controller to delete blocks, move data around, and then perform the write, which can seriously degrade performance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wtf_-_copy_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wtf_-_copy_small.jpg" alt="If your system feels like it’s stuck in the mud, the Task Manager will reveal what’s causing the problem. " width="620" height="564" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>If your system feels like it’s stuck in the mud, the Task Manager will reveal what’s causing the problem. </strong></p> <p>In general, if you’re running Windows 7 or newer, you should be fine. However, you can Trim a drive manually on Windows 8: right-click the drive in My Computer, and click Properties, Tools, and then Optimize. If you own a Samsung or Intel SSD, you can download the free Samsung Magician or SSD Toolbox software, respectively, which also let you Trim your drive.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>HDD “Optimization”</h3> <p><strong>Fast hard drives aren’t</strong></p> <p>If you are running a hard drive and want to optimize it, there’s not a whole lot you can do beyond keeping it defragmented. To make sure it’s “defragged,” right-click the drive, select Properties, Tools, and then Defragmentation. Ideally, you should do this after you’ve done your cleaning of unused junk from the machine. If it’s your boot device, some people like to disable hibernation before a defrag to get a little extra “boost” out of the defrag by eliminating the multi-gigabyte hiberfil.sys file. Frankly, we don’t think it matters much anymore. In our opinion, the concept of a “fast hard drive” is antiquated now, due to SSDs, as is the concept of “optimizing” them. Any gains you make toward keeping a hard drive optimized will be largely unnoticeable in the real world, beyond dumping the useless cruft and running a basic defrag, which the OS will do on its own.</p> <h3>Let’s Get Physical</h3> <p><strong>Knock, knock, house cleaning</strong></p> <p>Unless you live in a HEPA-filtered cleanroom, a desktop PC will eventually need a physical cleanup as well as a digital one. That means opening up the case, which means turning off your rig and unplugging it from the wall. Don’t want to lose a finger in those fan blades. Most case panels are secured with six-sided Phillips screws, sometimes call a “hex” screw. Or they have thumbscrews, which can usually be removed by hand. Once taken out, keep these together in a small container. An empty coffee mug will do in a pinch.</p> <p>If you’ve had this PC for several months, you should see a coating of dust inside. That has to be removed, because it insulates surfaces and clogs up fans, which can lead to overheating. With a can of compressed air, spray short bursts at the dust. Long sprays can freeze the inner workings of the can. And tilting the can may also cause its liquid to spray, which contains a solvent that can damage the contact surface. Ideally, do this dusting outside, because you don’t want all that dust floating around indoors.</p> <p>Case fan filters can also get gnarly. These days, most of them slide out. Spray them with air, or remove them, run them under the tap, and air dry. Fans themselves also get grody. You may need to temporarily remove the CPU fan from the heatsink to clean both items sufficiently. When spraying fans, hold their blades down to prevent them from spinning, otherwise you may damage the motor.</p> <p>A periodic disinfecting wipe or baby wipe can take care of your mouse, but keyboards usually need you to pull their keycaps to really get at the crustiness underneath. A puller tool is best for this. You can order one online from Newegg or Amazon, and regional computer stores like Fry’s and Microcenter usually sell them. Some people run their boards through the dishwasher. Don’t use detergent or hot water for that, and give them at least a day to fully dry out.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/babywipes_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/babywipes_small.jpg" alt="Gordon agrees, baby wipes work amazingly well for cleaning the surfaces of a dirty desktop or laptop." width="620" height="381" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Gordon agrees, baby wipes work amazingly well for cleaning the surfaces of a dirty desktop or laptop.</strong></p> <p>Last but not least, don’t forget to wipe the dust off your monitor’s screen. But don’t use conventional glass cleaner, because it can permanently damage the panel. You can buy screen-cleaning kits from most office supply stores, or you can use a spare microfiber cloth, like the kind made for camera lenses. Pharmacies also stock these. Just gently wipe the screen with it. If you need some liquid to clean the screen, spray your cloth with plain water from a mister. Never spray the screen itself, because the liquid can drip into the panel housing and corrode the components within.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/kitten_p34_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/kitten_p34_small.jpg" alt="Tuxie the cat, pointing out a spot Josh missed while cleaning." width="620" height="521" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Tuxie the cat, pointing out a spot we missed while cleaning.</strong></p> <h4>An Ounce of Prevention</h4> <p>If you’ve just cleaned out a rig that’s never seen a proper cleaning, you’re probably wondering what you can do to avoid such horrors in the future. Fan filters are obviously one option. If they’re not built into your case, you can get them from sites like Newegg, Amazon, and Frozen CPU. Some have magnets, and you just slap them on; others need to be screwed in. To get the correct sizing, measure your fan diagonally with a ruler. The most common size is 120mm. A filter’s dense mesh will reduce airflow and increase temps in the case, so there’s a trade-off. Even the best filter will not completely eliminate dust, it will only reduce the number of times per year that you need to clean the insides. Smokers and owners of furry pets will also need to clean more often than usual. Periodically brushing those critters will help reduce buildup.</p> <p>And we don’t know if we have to mention this, but washing your hands a few times over the course of the day will also help prevent unsightly crud from building up on your input devices. This is especially important after a meal or after spending time outdoors. And speaking of food, try to keep it away from your keyboard, which is a crumb magnet and said to be dirtier than a toilet. If your mouse pad has an old-style fabric surface, you may want to consider eliminating it altogether (unless your desk is made of glass), or switching to one made of plastic or metal—materials that can be cleaned quickly and easily.</p> <h3>Nuke it from orbit</h3> <p><strong>Nothing can save LV426, so when it’s too mangled or infested, just nuke it</strong></p> <p>We won’t bother telling you to back up your data before you send your OS to meet its maker, because that is too obvious. But before you nuke the OS, make sure you have everything you need.</p> <p>What might not be obvious is that because of piracy, a lot of the more expensive software packages require activation, which also requires you to deactivate any serial numbers before you begin your bombing run. Most professional Adobe packages work this way, so if you’re running Photoshop, Illustrator, or any locally stored creative suite, be sure to open the app, click Help, and then Deactivate. Make sure you’ve done it correctly by firing up the program again to see if it asks you to activate. If it does, you’re good to go; keep in mind you’ll need Internet access to successfully do this. Also keep in mind that if you deactivate a piece of software, then upgrade your system, the software might think it’s a different computer, which can complicate re-activation.</p> <p>The activation process varies on a program-to-program basis, so use Google if you run into any issues. Microsoft’s Office suites react the same as the operating system, and any significant change in hardware will trigger a reactivation. The bottom line: If you have a mission critical application that you absolutely have to have up and running as soon as possible, be sure to know what the re-activation process is before you pull the trigger so there are no surprises. Some apps require you to contact the vendor for a new code before they will run, which is a wonderful thing to learn at midnight Friday before a three-day weekend when you need the app that night.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/adobe_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/adobe_small.jpg" alt="In order to reinstall certain software, such as Adobe products, you must first deactivate the serial key." width="620" height="444" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>In order to reinstall certain software, such as Adobe products, you must first deactivate the serial key.</strong></p> <p>There are other apps you should also pay attention to. First up, browser bookmarks. Chrome will let you sync your bookmarks on other machines, but you need to set it up to do so. If you’re into the old-school method, you can also export your bookmarks file as HTML and then re-import it. You’ll want to make sure you have a copy of your iTunes library handy, too, which is located in C:\Users\Username\My Music. Be sure to deauthorize iTunes while you’re at it. You’ll also want to back up your Steam library so that you don’t have to re-download all your games. To do this in Steam, click Steam in the upper left-hand corner, select Backup and Restore Games, then follow the prompts. Alternatively, you can do it manually by copying the entire Steam directory over. You no longer have to worry about save-game files, since they are now all automatically saved to the “Steam Cloud.”</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/steam_backup_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/steam_backup_small.jpg" alt="Steam includes a built-in Backup and Restore tool, and we recommend using it." width="620" height="362" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Steam includes a built-in Backup and Restore tool, and we recommend using it.</strong></p> <p>Your final stop on this trail of tears is to make sure you have all the drivers you need for anything connected to your PC. At the very minimum, be sure to have your chipset and LAN drivers, as those always go first, and with an Internet connection you can always download anything else you need care of the helpful SlimDrivers utility. Don’t forget your printer drivers, though, and it doesn’t hurt to download Windows 7 SP1 or Windows 8.1 either, though Windows Update could also do it for you.</p> <p>Once you’ve deactivated your software, collected all the serial keys you need, made sure your Steam and iTunes libraries are backed up, saved your browser bookmarks, and have all your drivers, you are ready to proceed. Before you reboot your PC to reinstall, be sure to take a moment to consider all the amazing times it’s given you. Once that’s complete, shut her down, and we’ll see you on the other side.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/restore_computer_2014#comments Adobe application malware May issues 2014 restore computer Software Office Applications Software Features Mon, 15 Sep 2014 22:49:00 +0000 Maximum PC staff 28340 at http://www.maximumpc.com Bad PC Ports Need to Go Away: Dead Rising 3 Edition http://www.maximumpc.com/bad_pc_ports_need_go_away_dead_rising_3_edition_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Column: Now I know why they call it the Apocalypse Edition</h3> <p>PC games are buggy, and console games just work right out of the box – that’s at least the stigma that console gamers place on the PC. The truth is that PC gaming is <a title="pc gaming" href="http://www.intricworld.com/uploads/2/4/4/6/24467354/756791_orig.jpg" target="_blank">miles ahead of the consoles</a>, but I do have to admit that that there are grains of truth to the stigma.</p> <p>When Dead Rising 3 launched on the PC on September 5th, I encouraged my console-playing friend to play the game cooperatively with me on Steam. So we both got on Skype and fired it up. Immediately upon booting it up, however, I noticed the astonishingly long load times. To be fair, I did install it on my hard drive as opposed to my SSD, but these boot times were abnormally long and my friend noticed the same on his machine. The long boot times would be the least of my problems with the game, however. When I actually got into the game, something was definitely not right, and I'm not talking about the game's impending zombie apocalypse. It felt like I was playing more of a slideshow than a game. The framerate performance was terrible, which I thought was odd considering I was playing on my high-end i7 rig coupled with a GeForce GTX Titan. Sure I was trying to run the game maxed out, but considering I was using a $1,000 GPU on what essentially is a console port, max settings should have been a cakewalk.&nbsp;</p> <h3 style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/dead_rising_3_pc_port.jpg" width="460" height="215" /></h3> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>More like "Dead Rising 3: Bad Port Edition"</strong></p> <p>And my friend’s more humble PC equipped with a modest 560 Ti GPU? Well, it started sweating bullets on medium. “This is why I’m not into PC gaming,” my friend exclaimed. The comment stung a little and we both decided to tone down our graphics settings. I noticed a bump in performance when I ran the game at medium settings, but it still ran like crap. Upon doing some research, I found out that Capcom had capped the game to run at 30FPS. D’oh! Contrary to what console gamers might say, 30FPS is not enough, and friends don't let friends play at 30FPS.</p> <p>To be fair to Capcom, apparently the company did warn PC gamers that the game would be locked to 30FPS prior to Dead Rising 3’s launch, but still, a warning does not excuse a crime. That’s like someone telling you, “Sorry, but I’m going to punch you” right before punching you. In other words, it doesn’t really help. The straight truth of the matter is that Dead Rising 3 on the PC is a lazy port, and trust us when we say we know a thing or two about a bad port as we’ve done a roundup of <a title="bad pc port" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/worst_pc_ports_2014" target="_blank">the worst offenders</a>. At this point, we’d have to say Dead Rising 3 is a dead ringer to be on that list (see what I did there?).</p> <p>On the brightside, yes, there is an easy .ini fix to remove the 30FPS cap, but even Capcom advises against this because the company suggest that users 1)might need really beefy hardware and 2) it could potentially cause “<a title="dead rising issues" href="http://steamcommunity.com/app/265550/discussions/0/522730535829776687/" target="_blank">issues</a>.” Furthermore, I’m personally a little afraid that the tweak might conflict with a future update down the road. In addition, this fan-made patch reinforces the negative stereotype that PC gamers need to manually tweak their games just to play them properly. The least Capcom could have done here is to include an in-game menu option to remove the 30FPS limit with perhaps a warning that it might cause some instability on lower-end systems. After all, if we’re smart enough to choose PC gaming, we’re smart enough to toggle a menu switch. In addition, some of us do in fact have super beefy hardware and would like the option to use it on an occasion such as this. *cough*</p> <p>Terrible performance issues aside, Dead Rising’s framerate is hardly the most pressing issue with the game at the moment. When my friend and I were slugging our way through the co-op campaign, the game crashed on me multiple times and booted my friend out of the online instance as well. I was hoping to play the game all night with my buddy, to show him the joys of Steam and PC gaming, but after four game crashes in an hour, even I had to admit defeat.</p> <p>Over the next few days, I found out that my situation was not an isolated incident and that <a title="game crashes" href="http://steamcommunity.com/games/265550/announcements/detail/147813325104525261" target="_blank">TONS of users are reporting game crashes</a>. To Capcom’s credit, the company has acknowledged the crashes and are attempting to do something about it, but only time will tell if this specific matter gets resolved.&nbsp;</p> <p>I haven’t given up on Dead Rising 3 and was able to enjoy the game, well, at least from the little that I was able to play of it, but I’d much prefer to return to the zombie apocalypse when the bugs are ironed out. Because really, who likes fighting bugs and zombies at the same time?</p> <p>However, the bigger thing I want to say to Capcom and other game developers is this: PLEASE STOP THE LAZY PC PORTS! These buggy, unoptimized ports do nothing to bolster the sales of your games. But more importantly,&nbsp;your rush job gives PC gaming an undue bad rep.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/bad_pc_ports_need_go_away_dead_rising_3_edition_2014#comments 30 bad port console crash crashes crashing dead rising 3 framerate locked pc Steam Gaming News Features Fri, 12 Sep 2014 22:39:09 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28530 at http://www.maximumpc.com Best Keyboard http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/best_keyboard_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3>UPDATE: We've added six more keyboards to our best keyboard roundup</h3> <p>If you’re a gamer, you can probably identify a few points in time when you realized something important about your control setup that made you better at the game. When you discovered that putting your left hand on WASD gives you more options than putting it on the arrow keys, for instance, or when you realized that your crappy optical mouse was actually holding you back in shooters. These kinds of peripheral epiphanies don’t happen every day, but it might be just about time for you to have a new one. It might be time for you to realize that your keyboard is holding you back.</p> <h3 style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u152332/keyboard_opener13195_small_1.jpg" alt="best keyboard" title="best keyboard" width="620" height="480" /></h3> <p>We’re giving you some credit here—we’re not talking about making the upgrade from a $6 keyboard you got at the grocery store. No, we’re talking about making the upgrade from a gaming keyboard to an amazing gaming keyboard. Going from entry level or midrange to top-of-the-line.</p> <p>We looked around and picked out some of the <strong>best keyboards</strong> we could find. To compare them, we put them through our usual battery of real-world testing, including gaming and typing, and compared their features and overall feel. Because these keyboards come attached to some pretty heavy price tags, we made sure to give them extra scrutiny. We know that minor inconveniences that might fly on a cheap keyboard become a lot more galling when you’ve paid $150 for the privilege of suffering them, and our verdicts reflect this.</p> <p>Ready to make the upgrade to serious typing hardware? Then let’s go!</p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">CMStorm Mech</h4> <p><strong>CMStorm looks to get a handle on the high-end mechanical keyboard market<br /></strong></p> <p>The CMStorm Mech is, first of all, a great-looking keyboard. Most of the top of the keyboard is wrapped in a subtly etched aluminum plate, and the board’s geometric, asymmetrical silhouette is more imaginative than most. The aluminum plate can be removed for easy cleaning, which is a nice feature, but the seven hex screws that make removal possible mar the Mech’s otherwise-excellent aesthetics.</p> <p>Despite the Mech’s metal-clad looks, it’s not the sturdiest keyboard in this roundup. The back side of the board, and particularly the wrist rest, are made of hollow plastic that sometimes flexes and creaks under pressure. It also features a large handle on one side, and a detachable USB cable. These would be handy features for someone who takes their keyboard on the road frequently, but it’s not otherwise an especially portable keyboard. It would be nice if the handle were removable or retractable, because it adds an extra two or three inches to the Mech’s already substantial width.</p> <p>The software support is simple and easy to use. It allows you to customize the five dedicated macro keys, or to rebind any other key on the board, and includes a flexible macro editor.</p> <p>Actual typing and gaming performance is top-notch and virtually identical to the other mechanical gaming keyboards on the market. Fans of any variety of Cherry MX switch will be able to find a Mech that’s right for them—CMStorm offers the keyboard with Red, Blue, or Brown switches.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13204_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13204_small.jpg" alt="The Mech is a big mechanical keyboard, but isn't quite as sturdy as it looks." title="CMStorm Mech" width="620" height="425" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Mech is a big mechanical keyboard, but isn't quite as sturdy as it looks.</strong></p> <p>In all, the Mech is a solid gaming keyboard, but doesn’t quite live up to its top-of-the-line $160 price tag.</p> <p><strong>CMStorm Mech</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/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$160,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cmstorm.com/ " target="_blank">www.cmstorm.com</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Mad Catz STRIKE 3</h4> <p><strong>Is a less-extravagant Strike a better deal?</strong></p> <p>The Strike 3 is the least expensive in Mad Catz’s line of high-end gaming keyboards, but it’s by no means a piece of budget hardware. If the $100 price tag doesn’t convince you of that, seeing the Strike 3 in person will.</p> <p>It’s designed to look like the higher-end Strike boards, which can be split into two parts and rearranged, but this one doesn’t actually come apart. Build quality is good overall, with a removable wrist-rest and a pair of USB passthroughs. The board comes in glossy black, red, and white, and features customizable backlighting.</p> <p>The Strike 3 isn’t mechanical, which weakens the credibility of this $100 keyboard, but Mad Catz hasn’t ignored key quality altogether. The dome switches on the Strike 3 are some of the best we’ve felt, with a crisp actuation that feels almost, but not quite, as good as a mechanical model. They definitely feel better than any of the other non-mechanical boards we tested for this roundup.</p> <p>The Strike 3 features five dedicated macro keys on the right side of the board, and seven macro buttons at the top-left. The left-side buttons, unfortunately, are pretty abysmal. They’re tiny, far away from the home row, and strangely wiggly in their sockets—we found it virtually impossible to hit a particular one without looking.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13217_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13217_small.jpg" alt="The seam down the middle of the Strike 3 is just for show—this keyboard's only one piece." title="Mad Catz STRIKE 3" width="620" height="461" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The seam down the middle of the Strike 3 is just for show—this keyboard's only one piece.</strong></p> <p>The Strike 3 is a good keyboard, but we would generally recommend a mechanical board if you’re looking to spend this much. If you personally prefer non-mechanical switches, however, this would be an excellent choice.</p> <p><strong>Mad Catz Strike 3</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/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100, <a title="mad catz" href="http://www.madcatz.com" target="_blank">www.madcatz.com</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Click the next page for more keyboard reviews.</h4> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;"> <hr />SteelSeries Apex</h4> <p><strong>All the keys you could want, and then some</strong></p> <p>Sometimes, more is more. That seems to be the guiding principle behind the SteelSeries Apex keyboard, which comes with about as many keys as we’ve ever seen on a gaming keyboard. In addition to the standard full QWERTY layout with number pad, the Apex includes 10 macro keys and four layer keys down the left side, 12 more macro keys above the function row, and six dedicated media buttons along the right side. Even the arrow pad gets two extra diagonal keys. SteelSeries doesn’t advertise the Apex as an MMO keyboard specifically, but it’s hard to imagine what other application could make use of this abundance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13209_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13209_small_1.jpg" alt="You can prop the Apex up in the back by replacing two of it's rubber feet." title="SteelSeries Apex" width="620" height="448" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You can prop the Apex up in the back by replacing two of it's rubber feet.</strong></p> <p>Despite its absurd inventory of keys, the Apex doesn’t feel cluttered at all, and in fact looks quite nice. With its built-in wrist rest the board is pretty enormous, but the low-profile keys and customizable sectioned backlighting keep it looking sleek. The build quality is good, though not quite as hardy as SteelSeries’s mechanical keyboards. The Apex includes a pair of USB passthroughs, and allows for some angle customization with a pair of swappable rear feet.</p> <p>Our only real issue with the Apex is that it doesn’t use mechanical keys, and even compared to other dome-switch keyboards in this roundup, like the Strike 3, the Apex’s keys feel distinctly mushy. If it had better key performance, it would be a strong contender for best keyboard in this price range. As it is, we’d recommend it highly to those who prioritize lots of macro keys and great design over maximum key responsiveness.</p> <p><strong>SteelSeries Apex</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/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100,&nbsp;<a href="http://steelseries.com/ " target="_blank">www.steelseries.com</a></strong></p> <h3>What We Look for in a Keyboard</h3> <p>When we review a keyboard, we look at it on three levels. The first and most important level is basic user experience—how the board feels when you use it. This includes factors like key quality and responsiveness, layout, and build quality. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the way you use your keyboard comes down to those standard QWERTY keys, so we’ll take a great-feeling keyboard over a flimsy one with a zillion features any day. We would also consider a keyboard without enough anti-ghosting/rollover for gaming usage to have failed on this basic level.</p> <p>Second, we examine the board on the level of practical, value-adding features. These are what make a gaming keyboard different from a more standard keyboard, and include things like macro keys, profiles, USB/audio passthroughs, the ability to rebind any key, and media controls. Of course, there’s no standard rule for what’s “practical” and what’s not, and we take into consideration that, for instance, the first five macro keys add a lot more value to the keyboard than macro keys number 15-20. This is also the level where we consider the keyboard’s software support.</p> <p>Finally, we look at the keyboard’s less-essential features, and what they bring to the table. Here you’ll see us talk about things like backlighting, interchangeable keycaps, and paint jobs. These are frequently surface features, designed more for showing off to other gamers than for your own use.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/81173948_copy_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/81173948_copy_small.jpg" width="620" height="412" /></a></p> <p>All of this isn’t to say that we think keyboards should be boring, just that it’s important they have their priorities straight. Awesome backlighting can be a great addition to a gaming keyboard, but boards with tons of bells and whistles built into a crappy or just mediocre foundation are distressingly common.</p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Roccat Ryos Mk Pro</h4> <p><strong>This flashy keyboard is more than just looks</strong></p> <p>Build quality on the Ryos MK Pro is outstanding. It’s all plastic, as far as we can see, but is incredibly weighty and rugged-feeling. The surface is treated with a glossy dot-matrix pattern that gives the Ryos a high-class look without leaving it as vulnerable to fingerprints as a pure-gloss keyboard. Like the last Roccat keyboard we tested, the Ryos has a non-removable integrated wrist rest. It’s comfortable (particularly with the back of the board elevated on sturdy-feeling supports), but makes the keyboard take up an absolutely massive amount of desk space.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13210_smalll_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13210_smalll.jpg" alt="LEDs in each key in the Roccat MK Pro can light up and blink independently." title="Roccat Ryos Mk Pro" width="620" height="451" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>LEDs in each key in the Roccat MK Pro can light up and blink independently.</strong></p> <p>The software support for the Ryos is fine, though not outstanding. The interface is a little cluttered and at times unresponsive, but it gets the job done, allowing you to customize lighting, macros, and key binding for each profile.</p> <p>A lot of keyboards have backlighting these days, but this is the first one we’ve tested that has completely independent lights behind every key. The color can’t be changed, but you can choose which keys should light up and which shouldn’t for each profile. Better still, the Ryos MK Pro comes with a few special lighting effects, which can cause pressed keys to briefly light up, or even to send out a ripple of light across the whole keyboard. It’s simultaneously the most superfluous and most fun new feature we’ve seen in a keyboard in years.</p> <p>It’s hard to say that the Ryos Mk Pro completely justifies the $170 asking price—that’s quite a bit more money than other very good mechanical keyboards—but it at least comes close.</p> <p><strong>Roccat Ryos MK Pro</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/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$170,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.roccat.org/ " target="_blank">www.roccat.org</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Click the next page to read about the Gigabyte K7 review and more.</h4> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;"> <hr />Gigabyte Force K7</h4> <p><strong>A budget-friendly board that’s light on features</strong></p> <p>With a $50 MSRP, the Force K7 targets the budget-minded consumer, but still hovers comfortably above the bottom of the barrel. Any keyboard involves compromises, but with the K7, there just might be too many.</p> <p>The K7 advertises “extreme short actuation distance” for its keys, which are built on laptop-style scissor switches. Keyboard feel is a matter of personal preference, of course, but for gaming we’ve never been very fond of scissor switches, which offer almost no tactile feedback. The key layout on the K7 is standard, though it uses the half-width backspace key and double-decker enter key configuration that’s less commonly seen in gaming keyboards and makes touch typing a bit more difficult.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13214_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13214_small.jpg" alt="LEDs in each key in the Roccat MK Pro can light up and blink independently." title="Gigabyte Force K7" width="620" height="454" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Force K7 has a low profile, with laptop-style scissor-switch keys.</strong></p> <p>Build quality on the K7 is generally good—it’s sturdy and feels heavy on the desk. Our review unit did, however, come with an extra 0 key instead of the hyphen key, which raises some questions about quality assurance.</p> <p>If anything, the K7 is notable for its lack of gaming-specific features. It has no macro keys, no profiles, no ability to rebind keys, no USB passthroughs—none of the things that identify a keyboard as made especially for gaming. The only extra features the board does include are underwhelming three-color backlighting and a pair of thumbwheels, which can only be used to control volume and backlight intensity.</p> <p>There are no glaring problems with the K7, but without a clear performance advantage, there’s nothing to recommend this board over one of the low-end Logitech or Microsoft keyboards, which are similarly priced and offer a better set of features.</p> <p><strong>Gigabyte Force K7</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/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$50,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gigabyte.us/ " target="_blank">www.gigabyte.us</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Corsair Raptor K50</h4> <p><strong>The Cadillac of non-mechanical keyboards</strong></p> <p>The Corsair Raptor K50 is a beautifully designed board, borrowing the floating-keys design of the more expensive Vengeance boards, with just a hint of brushed aluminum along the top edge. The look is rounded out with high-quality customizable key lighting that shines through the keycaps, without leaking out around the edges of the keys. Build quality is second-to-none, and as usual, the raised-key design makes it easy to keep crumbs from accumulating under the keycaps.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The K50 is nicely feature-packed, with a USB passthrough, media keys, a large metal volume wheel, and, oh yeah, like a million macro keys. Well, 18, anyway, all in one huge bank at the left, along with dedicated buttons for switching between three macro layers and recording them on the fly. That number might be bordering on the too-many-to-actually-use zone, but some gamers might find a use for them all, and on-the-fly recording is a feature we wish more boards had. The software for the K50 works well, and onboard storage allows you to use your profiles on any computer.&nbsp;<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13212_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13212_small.jpg" alt="If you're the kind of gamer who needs an unhealthy number of macro keys, the Raptor K50 is for you." title="Corsair Raptor K50" width="620" height="413" /></a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>If you're the kind of gamer who needs an unhealthy number of macro keys, the Raptor K50 is for you.<br /></strong></p> <p>We like the K50 a lot, but—at the risk of sounding like a broken record—for most users we wouldn’t recommend a non-mechanical $100 board. Our recommendation at this price range would be to get a mechanical board with slightly fewer features, or to jump up an extra $30 and get a similarly feature-packed mechanical board, such as Corsair’s own Vengeance K70 or K90.</p> <p><strong>Corsair Raptor K50</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/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.corsair.com/ " target="_blank">www.corsair.com</a></strong></p> <p>Click the next page to read about some of the older mechanical keyboards we've reviewed such as the Razer Deathstalker Ultimate and more.</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>Razer Deathstalker Ultimate</h4> <p><strong>Fun to look at, less fun to use</strong></p> <p>The Razer Deathstalker is really a thing to behold. The gaming keyboard is thin, sleek, and nicely designed with tri-color glowing keys, but nothing draws your attention like the “Switchblade” user interface, borrowed from the <a title="razer blade" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/razer_blade_review2012" target="_blank">Razer Blade</a> gaming laptop.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227183_small_3.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227183_small_2.jpg" alt="Instead of a number pad, the Deathstalker Ultimate features a touchscreen, along with 10 contextual keys." title="Razer Deathstalker Ultimate" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Instead of a number pad, the Deathstalker Ultimate features a touchscreen, along with 10 contextual keys.</strong></p> <p>The Switchblade UI consists of a responsive multitouch 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen and 10 context-sensitive dynamic keys. The screen can act as a trackpad, or can play host to a number of applications including a web browser, Twitter client, YouTube viewer, and plenty of others, such as game-specific apps for a handful of popular titles. Additionally, the keyboard has plenty of on-the-fly macro keys, and the software suite that manages it is polished and very powerful. In other words, the Razer Deathstalker is clearly the most sophisticated gaming keyboard around. The question is, do the Deathstalker’s technical flourishes justify its massive $250 price tag.</p> <p>At that kind of price, we expect every element of a keyboard to be top-notch; unfortunately, that’s not the case with the <a title="deathstalker" href="http://www.razerzone.com/deathstalker" target="_blank">Razer Deathstalker</a>. The problem is the keyboard itself, which uses widely spaced chiclet-style keys, familiar to anyone who’s used a MacBook or most Ultrabooks. They look nice, but it’s not clear why a large, high-end gaming keyboard would opt to use them over mechanical switches or even rubber-dome membrane keys. The chiclet keys simply don’t feel very good to use—they float around inside their tracks and have miniscule travel when pressed. They’re not awful, but we’d expect a lot better from a $250 keyboard.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Razer Deathstalker Ultimate</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Juicy Fruit<br /></span> <p>Super-cool Switchblade UI; good software support.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Chiclets<br /></span> <p>Key quality is subpar for typing and game play; very expensive.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$150, <a href="http://www.razerzone.com " target="_blank">www.razerzone.com</a></strong></p> <h4>S.T.R.I.K.E. 7</h4> <p><strong>Plenty of novel features, but look at that price</strong></p> <p>Probably the most interesting thing about the <a title="strike 7" href="http://www.cyborggaming.com/strike7/" target="_blank">S.T.R.I.K.E. 7</a> is that it’s modular and customizable. When you first take it out of the box, the keyboard is in seven pieces, which can be screwed together in a number of different configurations. One of the pieces is a large touchscreen, which can be affixed to either the left or right side of the keyboard, as can an extra bank of macro keys and the adjustable “active palm rest,” which features a thumb wheel and button. The two halves of the keyboard can be used separately, though both must be connected to the touchscreen, and the kit comes with a set of 16 replacement key caps, so you can make sure your S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 doesn’t look like anyone else’s.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227_small.jpg" alt="The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is modular, and can be assembled in several different configurations." title="Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E. 7" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is modular, and can be assembled in several different configurations.</strong></p> <p>On the other hand, you probably won’t meet anyone else with a S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, unless you regularly attend LAN parties down at the yacht club. At $300, this is the most expensive keyboard we can remember reviewing, and some of the features just don’t rise to the level of expectations set by the price. The touchscreen, for instance, is resistive and not nearly as responsive as the screen on the Razer Deathstalker Ultimate. And like the Deathstalker, the S.T.R.I.K.E. opts for non-mechanical keys. Though the dome-style membrane keys are better than the Deathstalker’s chiclet keys, we firmly believe that a keyboard that costs three times as much as most of its competition ought to have the best keys available.</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/3AbwJON7ECk" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">S.T.R.I.K.E. 7</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Home Run<br /></span> <p>The most customizable keyboard around; tons of room for macros on keyboard and touchscreen.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Strike Out<br /></span> <p>Super pricey; non-mechanical keyboard feels so-so; touchscreen responsiveness is lacking.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$300, <a href="http://www.madcatz.com" target="_blank">www.madcatz.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Logitech G710+</h4> <p><strong>Logitech brings it back to basics</strong></p> <p>Logitech has finally decided that the recent trend toward mechanical gaming keyboards isn’t a passing fad, and has thrown its own hat into the ring with the G710+. At $150, the <a title="logitech g710+" href="http://gaming.logitech.com/en-us/product/g710plus-mechanical-gaming-keyboard" target="_blank">G710+</a> is one of the company’s most expensive boards, but it forgoes the LCD screens and raft of macro buttons usually found on Logitech’s highest-end products. Instead, the G710+ is a relatively straightforward keyboard built around a sturdy base of mechanical keys.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227187_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227187_small_0.jpg" alt="The backlight for the Logitech G710+’s arrow and WASD keys is separate from the rest of the board, so you can make them glow brighter than their surroundings." title="Logitech G710+" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The backlight for the Logitech G710+’s arrow&nbsp; and WASD keys is separate from the rest of the board, so you can make them glow brighter than their surroundings.</strong></p> <p>The G710+ uses MX Cherry Brown switches, which are a sort of compromise between the hyper-sensitive Reds and the tactile (and loud) Blues. They’re a nice middle-ground switch, excellent for both gaming and typing, though not completely ideal for either. Logitech has augmented the Cherry Browns with noise-dampening rings inside each key, for a quieter gaming session. The keys are mounted into a heavy board, with a clean black-and-gray aesthetic with orange accents. When connected via USB, the G710+’s laser-etched keycaps glow white—you can’t change the color, but the brightness is adjustable. In a nice, novel feature, the brightness of the WASD and arrow keys can be adjusted independently, to make them stand out more.</p> <p>Beyond the mechanical keys, the G710+ doesn’t have a lot of flashy features—just a set of macro keys (programmable on-the-fly), some media controls, and a standard-issue software suite with pre-made macro profiles for most modern games. It comes with a removable wrist rest, and includes a single USB pass-through. In all, it’s a nice, well-constructed keyboard, though its feature set is just a tiny bit smaller than some similarly priced mechanical boards from other brands.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Logitech G710+</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">O.G.<br /></span> <p>Excellent typing and gaming feel; dual-zone lighting;noise-dampened keys.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Oh No<br /></span> <p>On the pricier side; few pass-throughs.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$150, <a href="http://www.logitech.com " target="_blank">www.logitech.com</a></strong></p> <h3>The Art of Cherrypicking</h3> <p>If you’re the pattern-recognizing sort, you may notice that every mechanical keyboard in this roundup uses Cherry MX switches for their key mechanisms. That’s because virtually all mechanical gaming keyboards today use some variety of Cherry MX switch, such as Brown or Blue. The names indicate both the actual color of the switch (pry a keycap up and you’ll be able to tell by sight which switch is underneath), and the switch’s mechanical characteristics, in terms of tactility and resistance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/k60_d_install_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/k60_d_install_small.jpg" width="620" height="403" /></a></p> <p>A switch that is highly tactile has a noticeable “bump” that you overcome as you press it down, and tends to make a click noise as it passes that bump. A switch with high resistance requires more force to depress. Here are the four most common varieties of Cherry MX switch:</p> <p>Red: A non-tactile switch with low resistance. The pressing action is smooth, with no bump, and because of its low resistance it is very responsive. Good for action gamers.</p> <p>Black: A non-tactile switch, like the Red, with higher resistance.</p> <p>Blue: A highly tactile switch, with a dramatic (and loud) click. Considered the best switch for typing, but they can be slightly harder to double-tap quickly for gaming.</p> <p>Brown: A middle-ground switch, with a light tactile click and medium resistance. Functions well for both typing and gaming.</p> <p>Click <a title="mechanical keyboard guide" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/mechanical_keyboard_guide_2013" target="_blank">here</a> to read our in-depth mechanical keyboard guide.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>Corsair Vengeance K90</h4> <p><strong>All the macro keys money can buy</strong></p> <p>The <a title="K90" href="http://www.corsair.com/gaming-peripherals/gaming-keyboards/vengeance-k90-performance-mmo-mechanical-gaming-keyboard.html" target="_blank">Corsair Vengeance K90</a> launched early last year alongside the Vengeance K60. It is, at heart, an expanded version of that board, fitted with a vast bank of customizable macro keys at the far left, and a detachable rubberized wrist rest. The extra functionality is mostly aimed at MMO players, who may have need for the truly staggering number of macro keys—18 keys, arranged into three banks of six, with three profile buttons for a total of 54 programmable actions. We’re a bit skeptical about the utility of so many macro buttons, as it becomes difficult to remember which key does what, and to hit them without looking, as the button count increases. Still, you should be able to imagine whether you’d be able to put the buttons to good use or not.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227181_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227181_0.jpg" alt="With the K90, Corsair goes deep on macro keys. Unfortunately, only the main QWERTY keyboard and arrow keys are mechanical." title="Corsair Vengeance K90" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>With the K90, Corsair goes deep on macro keys. Unfortunately, only the main QWERTY keyboard and arrow keys are mechanical.</strong></p> <p>Beyond those extra keys, the K90 features the strong points of the K60, including a rugged all-aluminum body and responsive Cherry MX Red switches. The fantastic-looking low-profile aluminum design is even snazzier in the K90, thanks to blue backlighting that shines through the laser-etched keycaps. One of the strangest and worst features of the K90 is that it uses membrane-style switches for a small subset of the keys on the board (the 18 macro keys, the function keys, as well as the block above the arrow keys), which feel noticeably worse than the mechanical keys that make up the rest of the board. Especially for keys that are meant to be used in the heat of the moment, the transition to non-mechanical keys is very jarring.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Corsair Vengeance K90</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Macro<br /></span> <p>Tons of macro keys; nice build quality and design; mechanical.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Micro<br /></span> <p>Not all keys are mechanical; giant block of macro keys is difficult to use efficiently.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$130, <a href="http://www.corsair.com " target="_blank">www.corsair.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Rosewill RK-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard</h4> <p><strong>A solid board, low on features</strong></p> <p>Sometimes it’s nice when a company comes along and boils down a product category to just the features that are important. With the <a title="rk-9100" href="http://www.rosewill.com/products/2320/ProductDetail_Overview.htm" target="_blank">RK-9100</a>, Rosewill does just that, offering a solid mechanical gaming keyboard with few flourishes.</p> <p>The RK-9100 is a compact design with no wrist rest and a minimal lip around the outside of the board. It’s heavy, and feels quite sturdy. It uses mechanical keys—once again, Cherry MX switches, though with the RK-9100 you have a choice of the typing-friendly Blue switches, or the in-between Browns. We tend to prefer the Browns as a nice compromise between gaming and typing, which makes it a bit frustrating that the Brown-switch version of the RK-9100 retails for $130, $20 more than the Blue version.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227185_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227185_small.jpg" alt="The Rosewill RK-9100 isn’t the fanciest-looking keyboard, but it feels great to use." title="Rosewill RK-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard" width="620" height="321" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Rosewill RK-9100 isn’t the fanciest-looking keyboard, but it feels great to use.</strong></p> <p>The keyboard has a nice blue backlight, except for the scroll-, num-, and caps-lock keys, which glow green while active. It’s a good idea, but for some reason the green light is incredibly bright, and angled to shine right into your eyes while active. It’s distracting, and unfortunately can’t be turned off—we wouldn’t be surprised if most RK-9100 owners end up fixing the problem with electrical tape. That’s the only significant problem we noticed while using Rosewill’s keyboard, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that $130 is a bit too much to ask for this board. The Logitech G710+ features the same MX Brown switches, and with street a price that’s currently only about $10 more than RK-9100, includes significantly more features that set it apart as a gaming keyboard.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Rosewill RK-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Rose water<br /></span> <p>No-nonsense design; selection of different Cherry MX switches.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Hose water<br /></span> <p>No macro keys; no software support.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$130, <a href="http://www.rosewill.com " target="_blank">www.rosewill.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Roccat Isku</h4> <p><strong>Membrane plank makes strong impression</strong></p> <p>If you’re not ready to make the jump to a mechanical keyboard, and aren’t interested in touchscreens or scalp massagers or whatever other luxury features are going into the $200-plus planks, your money will go a lot farther. Specifically, it’ll go all the way to the <a title="roccat" href="http://www.roccat.org/Products/Gaming-Keyboards/ROCCAT-Isku/" target="_blank">Roccat Isku</a>, a handsome and feature-rich keyboard from German newcomer Roccat.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227184_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227184_small.jpg" alt="The Isku is thin but takes up a lot of room, thanks to its broad wrist rest and bezel." title="Roccat Isku" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Isku is thin but takes up a lot of room, thanks to its broad wrist rest and bezel.</strong></p> <p>The Isku is wide and flat, with an oversized wrist rest and a wide bezel all around the board, taking up plenty of desk real estate. It’s got a grippy textured-plastic frame and recessed contoured keys that make the whole thing seem flatter and lower to the desk than normal. The dome keys are good (as far as they go) with a fairly crisp and responsive activation.</p> <p>Where the Isku really shines is in its expansive set of features. It has eight macro buttons (including three “thumbster” keys under the spacebar), with on-the-fly recording, and profile switching. It gets further mileage out of the bindable keys and macros with an “EasyShift” button where the caps-lock key would normally be, which temporarily switches the functions of all right-hand-accessible keys while held down. There’s a lot to customize, and the included software suite is intuitive and up to the task.</p> <p>Also, the Isku is part of the “Roccat Talk” ecosystem, which allows button presses on the keyboard to affect the behavior of a Roccat gaming mouse, and vice versa. At this price, we’d strongly recommend buying a mechanical board, but if you can’t or don’t want to, the Isku is an excellent choice.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Roccat Isku</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Rose water<br /></span> <p>No-nonsense design; selection of different Cherry MX switches.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Hose water<br /></span> <p>No macro keys; no software support.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$90, <a href="http://www.roccat.org" target="_blank">www.roccat.org</a></strong></p> <h3>A Keyboard for Clean Freaks</h3> <p>One of the keyboards we received while preparing this roundup was the <a title="logitech washable keyboard" href="http://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/washable-keyboard-k310" target="_blank">Logitech Washable Keyboard K310</a>. Somehow it didn’t seem quite fair to pit the $40 K310 against the likes of the Razer Deathstalker in a straight head-to-head, but we couldn’t resist the chance to see if this washable keyboard really works.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboard_before_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboard_before_small.jpg" width="620" height="415" /></a></p> <p>The K310 has a standard full-size layout with flat, thick plastic keys. Despite the very plastic-y construction and non-standard keys, the keyboard actually feels pretty decent to use.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dirtykeyboard_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dirtykeyboard_small_0.jpg" width="620" height="415" /></a></p> <p>We don’t actually have a standard testing procedure worked out for washable keyboards, so we improvised. We took a quick trip to the corner store for a bag of Cheetohs—bane of all keyboards. We then used a mortar and pestle to mash them into a fine, delicious powder, and applied it liberally to the keyboard (and surrounding table).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/washingkeyboard_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/washingkeyboard_small.jpg" width="620" height="415" /></a></p> <p>We were originally going to stick the K310 in the dishwasher, but a label on its back specifically warns against doing so. Instead, we gave it a thorough hand-washing in the sink.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/clean_keyboard_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/clean_keyboard_small.jpg" width="620" height="347" /></a></p> <p>What’s the verdict? The keyboard looks like new, and works just fine. Not bad!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/best_keyboard_2013#comments March 2013 2013 best keyboard Hardware Hardware Logitech G710+ maximum pc Razer Deathstalker Ultimate reviews strike 7 Keyboards Reviews Features Wed, 10 Sep 2014 21:44:05 +0000 Alex Castle 25598 at http://www.maximumpc.com Haswell-E Review http://www.maximumpc.com/haswell-e_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>UPDATE: We've updated our Haswell- E story to include our video on Haswell-E (X99) motheboards</h3> <p>After three long years of going hungry with quad-cores, red meat is finally back on the menu for enthusiasts. And not just any gamey slab full of gristle with shared cores, either. With its new eight-core Haswell-E CPU, Intel may have served up the most mouth-watering, beautifully seared piece of red meat in a long time.</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/aNTMIHr9Ha0" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>And it’s a good thing, too, because enthusiast’s stomachs have been growling. Devil’s Canyon? That puny quad-core was just an appetizer. And that dual-core highly overclockable Pentium K CPU? It’s the mint you grab on your way out of the steak house.</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/_h9ggGZHFtU" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>No, what enthusiasts have craved and wanted ever since Intel’s original clock-blocking job on the original Sandy Bridge-E was a true, overclockable enthusiast chip with eight cores. So if you’re ready for a belt loosening, belly full of enthusiast-level prime rib, pass the horse radish, get that damned salad off our table, and read on to see if Intel’s Haswell-E is everything we hoped it would be.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Meet the Haswell-E parts</strong></p> <p><span style="color: #ff0000;"><img src="/files/u154082/haswell-e_comparison_chart.png" alt="haswell e comparison chart" title="haswell e comparison chart" width="620" height="241" /></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/lga2011v3socket.jpg" alt="haswell e socket" title="haswell e socket" width="620" height="626" /></p> <p><strong>Despite its name, the LGA2011-v3 socket is not same as the older LGA2011 socket. Fortunately, the cooling offsets are exactly the same, so almost all older coolers and accessories should work just fine.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/lga2011socket1.jpg" alt="lga2011" title="lga2011" width="620" height="556" /></p> <p><strong>Though they look the same, LGA2011’s socket has arms that are actually arranged differently than the new LGA2011-v3 that replaces it. And no, you can’t drop a newer Haswell-E into this socket and make it work.</strong></p> <h4>Haswell-E</h4> <p><strong>The first consumer Intel eight-core arrives at last</strong></p> <p>Being a card-carrying member of the PC enthusiast class is not an easy path to follow. Sure, you get the most cores and priciest parts, but it also means you get to wait a hell of a long time in between CPU upgrades. And with Intel’s cadence the last few years, it also means you get the leftovers. It’s been that way ever since Intel went with its two-socket strategy with the original LGA1366/LGA1156. Those who picked the big-boy socket and stuck to their guns on Pure PC performance always got the shaft.&nbsp;</p> <p>The original Ivy Bridge in LGA1156 socket, for example, hit the streets in April of 2012. As a reward for having the more efficient and faster CPU, Intel rewarded the small-socket crowd with its Haswell in June of 2013. It wasn’t until September of 2013 that big-boy socket users finally got Ivy Bridge-E for their LGA2011s. But with Haswell already out and tearing up the benchmarks, who the hell cared?</p> <p>Well, that time has come with Haswell-E, Intel’s first replacement for the aging LGA2011 platform since 2011. This time though, Intel isn’t just shuffling new parts into its old stack. For the first since the original Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, paying the price premium actually nets you more: namely, the company’s first consumer eight-core CPU.</p> <p><strong>Meet the T-Rex of consumer CPUs: The Core i7-5960X</strong></p> <p>We were actually a little leery of Haswell when it first launched last year. It was, after all, a chip seemingly tuned for the increasingly mobile/laptoppy world we were told was our post PC-apocalyptic future. Despite this, we recognized the chip as the CPU to have for new system builders. Clock for clock, its 22nm process, tri-gate transistors put everything else to shame—even the six-core Core i7-3930K chip in many tasks. So it’s no surprise that when Intel took a quad-core Haswell, put it in the Xerox machine, and hit the copy x2 button , we’d be ecstatic. Eight cores are decidedly better than six cores or four cores when you need them.&nbsp;</p> <p>The cores don’t come without a cost though, and we don’t mean the usual painful price Intel asks for its highest-end CPUs. It’s no secret that more cores means more heat, which means lower clock speeds. That’s one of the rationales Intel used with the original six-core Core i7-3960X. Although sold as a six-core, the original Sandy Bridge-E was built using an eight-core die on which Intel had permanently switched off two cores. Intel said it wanted to balance the needs of the many versus the needs of the few—that is, by turning off two of the cores, the part could hit higher clock speeds. Indeed, the Core i7-3960X had a base clock of 3.3GHz and Turbo Boost of 3.9GHz, and most could overclock it to 5GHz. The same chip packaged as a Xeon with all eight cores working—the Xeon E5-2687W—was locked down at 3.1GHz and mostly buzzed along at 3.4GHz.</p> <p>With the new Core i7-5960X—the only eight-core of the bunch—the chip starts at a seemingly pedestrian 3GHz with a Turbo Boost of one core up to 3.5GHz. Those subsonic clock speeds won’t impress against the Core i7-4790K, which starts at 4GHz. You’ll find more on how well Haswell-E performs against Haswell in our performance section, but that’s the price to be paid, apparently, to get a chip with this many cores under the heat spreader. Regarding thermals, in fact, Intel has increased the TDP rating to 140 watts versus 130 watts of Ivy Bridge-E and Sandy Bridge-E.&nbsp;</p> <p>If the low clocks annoy you, the good news is the part is fully unlocked, so the use of overclocking has been approved. For our test units, we had very early hardware and tight deadlines, so we didn’t get very far with our overclocking efforts. Talking with vendors, however, most seem very pleased with the clock speeds they were seeing. One vendor told us overclocks of all cores at 4.5GHz was already obtainable and newer microcode updates were expected to improve that. With even the vaunted Devil’s Canyon Core i7-4790K topping out at 4.7GHz to 4.8GHz, a 4.5GHz is actually a healthy overclock for an eight-core CPU.</p> <p><span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>When you dive down into the actual cores though, much is the same, of course. It’s based on a 22nm process. It has “3D” tri-gate transistors and integrated voltage regulation. Oh, and it’s also the first CPU to feature an integrated DDR4 memory controller.</p> <p><strong>Click the next page to read about DDR4</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>DDR4 details</h4> <p>If you think Haswell-E has been a long wait, just think about DDR3, which made its debut as main memory in systems since 2007. Yes, 2007. The only component that has lasted seven years in most enthusiasts systems might be the PSU, but it’s even rare to find anyone kicking a 500-watt PSU from 2007 these days.&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>DDR4 has been in gestation seemingly as long, so why the delay? From what we can tell, resistance to yet another new memory standard during a time when people thought the desktop PC and the PC in general were dying has been the root delay. It didn’t help that no one wanted to stick their head out first, either. RAM makers didn’t want to begin producing it DDR4 in volume until AMD or Intel made chipsets for it, and AMD and Intel didn’t want to support it because of the costs it would add to PCs at a time when people were trying to lower costs. The stalemate finally ends with Haswell-E, which integrates a quad-channel memory controller into its die.</p> <p>Initial launch speeds of DDR4 clock in at DDR4/2133. For those already running DDR3 at 3GHz or higher, a 2,133 data rate is a snooze, but you should realize that anything over 2133 is overclocked RAM. With DDR4, the JEDEC speeds (the body that sets RAM standards) already has target data rates of 3200 on the map. RAM vendors we’ve talked to are already shopping DIMMS near that speed.</p> <p>The best part of DDR4 may be its density message, though. For years, consumer DDR3 has topped out at 8GB on a DIMM. With DDR4, we should see 16B DIMMs almost immediately, and stacking of chips is built into the standard, so it’s possible we’ll see 32GB DIMMs over its lifetime. On a quad-channel, eight-DIMM motherboard, you should expect to be able to build systems with 128GB of RAM using non-ECC DIMMs almost immediately. DDR4 also brings power savings and other improvements, but the main highlights enthusiasts should expect are higher densities and higher clocks. Oh, and higher prices. RAM prices haven’t been fun for anyone of late, but DDR4 will definitely be a premium part for some time. In fact, we couldn’t even get exact pricing from memory vendors as we were going to press, so we’re bracing for some really bad news.</p> <h4>PCIe lanes: now a feature to be blocked</h4> <p>Over the years, we’ve come to expect Intel to clock-block core counts, clock speeds, Hyper-Threading, and even cache for “market segmentation” purposes. What that means is Intel has to find ways to differentiate one CPU from another. Sometimes that’s by turning off Hyper-Threading (witness Core i5 and Core i7) and sometimes its locking down clock speeds. With Haswell-E though, Intel has gone to new heights with its clock-blocking by actually turning off PCIe lanes on some Haswell-E parts to make them less desirable. At the top end, you have the 3GHz Core i7-5960X with eight cores. In the midrange you have the six-core 3.5GHz Core i7-5930K. And at the “low-end” you have the six-core 3.3GHz Core i7-5820K. The 5930K and the 5820K are virtually the same in specs except for one key difference: The PCIe lanes get blocked. Yes, while the Core i7-5960X and Core i7-5930K get 40 lanes of PCIe 3.0, the Core i7-5820K gets an odd 28 lanes of PCIe 3.0. That means those who had hoped to build “budget” Haswell-E boxes with multiple GPUs may have to think hard and fast about using the lowest-end Haswell-E chip. The good news is that for most people, it won’t matter. Plenty of people run Haswell systems with SLI or CrossFire, and those CPUs are limited to 16 lanes. Boards with PLX switches even support four-way GPU setups.</p> <p>Still, it’s a brain bender to think that when you populate an X99 board with the lowest-end Haswell-E, the PCIe configuration will change. The good news is at least they’ll work, just more slowly. Intel says it worked with board vendors to make sure all the slots will function with the budget Haswell-E part.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/mpc_haswell_front-back_1.jpg" alt="haswell e chip" title="haswell e chip" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p><strong>There have been clock-blocking rumors swirling around about the Haswell being a 12-core Xeon with four cores turned off. That’s not true and Intel says this die-shot proves it.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/ivbe.jpg" alt="ivy bridge e" title="ivy bridge e" width="620" height="550" /></p> <p><strong>Ivy Bridge-E’s main advantage over Sandy Bridge-E was a native six-core die and greatly reduced power consumption. And, unfortunately, like its Ivy Bridge counterpart, overclocking yields on Ivy Bridge-E were greatly reduced over its predecessor, too, with few chips hitting more than 4.7GHz at best.</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/snbe.jpg" alt="sandy bridge e" title="sandy bridge e" width="308" height="260" /></p> <p><strong>Sandy Bridge-E and Sandy Bridge will long be remembered for its friendliness to overclocking and having two of its working cores killed Red Wedding–style by Intel.</strong></p> <p><strong>Click the next page to read about X99.</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>X99&nbsp;</h4> <p><strong>High-end enthusiasts finally get the chipset they want, sort of</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/x99blockdiagram.jpg" alt="x99 block diagram" title="x99 block diagram" width="620" height="381" /></p> <p><strong>Intel overcompensated in SATA on X99 but oddly left SATA Express on the cutting-room floor.</strong></p> <p>You know what we won’t miss? The X79 chipset. No offense to X79 owners, while the Core i7-4960X can stick around for a few more months, X79 can take its under-spec’ed butt out of our establishment. Think we’re being too harsh? We don’t.</p> <p>X79 has no native USB 3.0 support. And its SATA 6Gb/s ports? Only two. It almost reads like a feature set from the last decade to us. Fortunately, in a move we wholly endorse, Intel has gone hog wild in over-compensating for the weaknesses of X79.&nbsp;</p> <p>X99 has eight USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports baked into the peripheral controller hub in it. For SATA 6Gb/s, Intel adds 10 ports to X99. Yes, 10 ports of SATA 6Gb/s. That gazongo number of SATA ports, however, is balanced out by two glaring omission in X99: no official SATA Express or M.2 support that came with Z97. Intel didn’t say why it left off SATA Express or M.2 in the chipset, but it did say motherboard vendors were free to implement it using techniques they gleaned from doing it on Z97 motherboards. If we had to hazard a guess, we’d say Intel’s conservative nature led it to leave the feature off the chipset, as the company is a stickler for testing new interfaces before adding official support. At this point, SATA Express has been a no-show. After all, motherboards with SATA Express became available in May with Z97, yet we still have not seen any native SATA Express drives. We expect most motherboard vendors to simply add it through discrete controllers; even our early board sample had a SATA Express port.&nbsp;</p> <p>One potential weakness of X99 is Intel’s use of the DMI 2.0. That offers roughly 2.5GB/s of transfer speed between the CPU and the south bridge or PCH, but with the board hanging 10 SATA devices, USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and 8 PCIe Gen 2.0 lanes off that link, there is the potential for massive congestion—but only in a worst-case scenario. You’d really have to a boat load of hardware lit up and sending and receiving data at once to cause the DMI 2.0 to bottleneck. Besides, Intel says, you can just hang the device off the plentiful PCIe Gen 3.0 from the CPU.</p> <p>That does bring up our last point on X99: the PCIe lanes. As we mentioned earlier, there will be some confusion over the PCIe lane configuration on systems with Core i7-5820K parts. With only 28 lanes of PCIe lanes available from that one chip, there’s concern that whole slots on the motherboard will be turned off. That won’t happen, Intel says. Instead, if you go with the low-rent ride, you simply lose bandwidth. Take an X99 mobo and plug in the Core i7-5930K and you get two slots at x16 PCIe, and one x8 slot. Remove that CPU and install the Core i7-5820K, and the slots will now be configured as one x16, one x8 and one x4. It’s still more bandwidth than you can get from a normal LGA1150-based Core i7-4770K but it will be confusing nonetheless. We expect motherboard vendors to sort it out for their customers, though.</p> <p>Haswell-E does bring one more interesting PCIe configuration though: the ability to run five graphics cards in the PCIe slots at x8 speeds. Intel didn’t comment on the reasons for the option but there only a few apparent reasons. The first is mining configurations where miners are already running six GPUs. Mining, however, doesn’t seem to need the bandwidth a x8 slot would provide. The other possibility is a five-way graphics card configuration being planned by Nvidia or AMD. At this point it’s just conjecture, but one thing we know is that X99 is a welcome upgrade. Good riddance X79.&nbsp;</p> <h4>Top Procs Compared</h4> <p><span style="color: #ff0000;"><span style="white-space: pre;"><img src="/files/u154082/top_processors.png" alt="top processors compared" title="top processors compared" width="620" height="344" /></span></span></p> <h4>Core Competency&nbsp;</h4> <p><strong>How many cores do you really need?</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/haswelletaskamanger.png" alt="haswell task manager" title="haswell task manager" width="620" height="564" /></p> <p><strong>It is indeed a glorious thing to see a task manager with this many threads, but not everyone needs them.</strong></p> <p>Like the great technology philosopher Sir Mix-A-Lot said, we like big cores and we cannot lie. We want as many cores as legally available. But we recognize that not everyone rolls as hard as we do with a posse of threads. With Intel’s first eight-core CPU, consumers can now pick from two cores all the way to eight on the Intel side of the aisle—and then there’s Hyper-Threading to confuse you even more. So, how many cores do you need? We’ll give you the quick-and-dirty lowdown.</p> <p><strong>Two cores</strong></p> <p>Normally, we’d completely skip dual-cores without Hyper-Threading because the parts tend to be the very bottom end of the pool Celerons. Our asterisk is the new Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition, or “Pentium K,” which is a real hoot of a chip. It easily overclocks and is dead cheap. It’s not the fastest in content creation by a long shot, but if we were building an ultra-budget gaming rig and needed to steal from the CPU budget for a faster GPU, we’d recommend this one. Otherwise, we see dual-cores as purely ultra-budget parts today.</p> <p><strong>Two cores with Hyper-Threading</strong></p> <p>For your parents who need a reliable, solid PC without overclocking (you really don’t want to explain how to back down the core voltage in the BIOS to grandma, do you?), the dual-core Core i3 parts fulfill the needs of most people who only do content creation on occasion. Hyper-Threading adds value in multi-threaded and multi-tasking tasks. You can almost think of these chips with Hyper-Threading as three-core CPUs.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Four cores</strong></p> <p>For anyone who does content creation such as video editing, encoding, or even photo editing with newer applications, a quad-core is usually our recommended part. Newer game consoles are also expected to push min specs for newer games to quad-cores or more as well, so for most people who carry an Enthusiast badge, a quad-core part is the place to start.</p> <p><strong>Four cores with Hyper-Threading</strong></p> <p>Hyper-Threading got a bad name early on from the Pentium 4 and existing software that actually saw it reduce performance when turned on. Those days are long behind us though, and Hyper-Threading offers a nice performance boost with its virtual cores. How much? &nbsp;A 3.5GHz Core i7 quad-core with Hyper-Threading generally offers the same performance on multi-threaded tasks as a Core i5 running at 4.5GHz. The Hyper-Threading helps with content creation and we’d say, if content creation is 30 percent or less of your time, this is the place to be and really the best fit for 90 percent of enthusiasts.</p> <p><strong>Six cores with Hyper-Threading</strong></p> <p>Once you pass the quad-core mark, you are moving pixels professionally in video editing, 3D modeling, or other tasks that necessitate the costs of a six-core chip or more. We still think that for 90 percent of folks, a four-core CPU is plenty, but if losing time rendering a video costs you money (or you’re just ADD), pay for a six-core or more CPU. How do you decide if you need six or eight cores? Read on.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Eight cores with Hyper-Threading</strong></p> <p>We recognize that not everyone needs an eight-core processor. In fact, one way to save cash is to buy the midrange six-core chip instead, but if time is money, an eight-core chip will pay for itself. For example, the eight-core Haswell-E is about 45 percent faster than the four-core Core i7-4790K chip. If your render job is three hours, that’s more time working on other paying projects. The gap gets smaller between the six-core and the eight-core of course, so it’s very much about how much your time is worth or how short your attention span is. But just to give you an idea, the 3.3GHz Core i7-5960X is about 20 percent faster than the Core i7-4960X running at 4GHz.</p> <p><strong>Click the next page to see how Haswell-E stacks up against Intel's other top CPUs.</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Intel’s Top Guns Compared</h4> <p><img src="/files/u154082/cpus17918.jpg" alt="haswell" title="haswell" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p><strong><strong>The LGA2011-based Core i7-4960X (left) and the LGA2011-v3-based Core i7-5960X (middle) dwarf the Core i7-4790K chip (right). Note the change in the heat spreader between the older 4960X and 5960X, which now has larger “wings” that make it easier to remove the CPU by hand. The breather hole, which allows for curing of the thermal interface material (solder in this case), has also been moved. Finally, while the chips are the same size, they are keyed differently to prevent you from installing a newer Haswell-E into an older Ivy Bridge-E board.</strong></strong></p> <h4>Benchmarks</h4> <p><strong>Performance junkies, rejoice! Haswell-E hits it out of the ballpark</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/x99-gaming_5-rev10.jpg" alt="x99 gigabyte" title="x99 gigabyte" width="620" height="734" /></p> <p><strong>We used a Gigabyte X99 motherboard (without the final heatsinks for the voltage-regulation modules) for our testing.</strong></p> <p>For our testing, we set up three identical systems with the fastest available CPUs for each platform. Each system used an Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 with the same 340.52 drivers, Corsair 240GB Neutron GTX SSDs, and 64-bit Windows 8.1 Enterprise. Since we’ve had issues with clock speeds varying on cards that physically look the same, we also verified the clock speeds of each GPU manually and also recorded the multiplier, bclock, and speeds the parts run at under single-threaded and multi-threaded loads. So you know, the 3GHz Core i7-5960X’s would run at 3.5GHz on single-threaded tasks but usually sat at 3.33GHz on multi-threaded tasks. The 3.6GHz Core i7-4960X ran everything at 4GHz, including multi-threading tasks. The 4GHz Core i7-4790K part sat at 4.4GHz on both single- and multi-threaded loads.</p> <p>For Z97, we used a Gigabyte Z97M-D3H mobo with a Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” chip aboard. &nbsp;An Asus Sabertooth X79 did the duty for our Core i7-4960X “Ivy Bridge-E” chip. Finally, for our Core i7-5960X chip, we obtained an early Gigabyte X99-Gaming 5 motherboard. The board was pretty early but we feel comfortable with our performance numbers as Intel has claimed the Core i7-5960X was “45 percent” faster than a quad-core chip, and that’s what we saw in some of our tests.&nbsp;</p> <p>One thing to note: The RAM capacities were different but in the grand scheme of things and the tests we run, it has no impact. The Sabertooth X79 &nbsp;had 16GB of DDR3/2133 in quad-channel mode, the Z97M-D3H had 16GB of DDR3/2133 in dual-channel mode. Finally, the X99-Gaming 5 board had 32GB of Corsair DDR4/2133. All three CPUs will overclock, but we tested at stock speeds to get a good baseline feel.&nbsp;</p> <p>For our benchmarks, we selected from a pile of real-world games, synthetic tests, as well as real-world applications across a wide gamut of disciplines. Our gaming tests were also run at very low resolutions and low-quality settings to take the graphics card out of the equation. We also acknowledge that people want to know what they can expect from the different CPUs at realistic settings and resolutions, so we also ran all of the games at their highest settings at 1920x1080 resolution, which is still the norm in PC gaming.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The results</strong></p> <p>We could get into a multi-sentence analysis of how it did and slowly break out with our verdict but in a society where people get impatient at the microwave, we’ll give you the goods up front: Holy Frakking Smokes, this chip is fast! The Core i7-5960X is simply everything high-end enthusiasts have been dreaming about.&nbsp;</p> <p>Just to give you an idea, we’ve been recording scores from $7,000 and $13,000 PCs in our custom Premiere Pro CS6 benchmark for a couple of years now. The fastest we’ve ever seen is the Digital Storm Aventum II that we reviewed in our January 2014 issue. The 3.3GHz Core i7-5960X was faster than the Aventum II’s Core i7-4960X running at 4.7GHz. Again, at stock speeds, the Haswell-E was faster than the fastest Ivy Bridge-E machine we’ve ever seen.</p> <p>It wasn’t just Premiere Pro CS6 we saw that spread in either. In most of our tests that stress multi-threading, we saw roughly a 45 percent to 50 percent improvement going from the Haswell to the Haswell-E part. The scaling gets tighter when you’re comparing the six-core Core i7-4960X but it’s still a nice, big number. We generally saw a 20 percent to 25 percent improvement in multi-threaded tasks.&nbsp;</p> <p>That’s not even factoring in the clock differences between the parts. The Core i7-4790K buzzes along at 4.4GHz—1.1GHz faster than the Core i7-5960X in multi-threaded tasks—yet it still got stomped by 45 to 50 percent. The Core i7-4960X had a nearly 700MHz clock advantage as well over the eight-core chip.</p> <p>The whole world isn’t multi-threaded, though. Once we get to workloads that don’t push all eight cores, the higher clock speeds of the other parts predictably take over. ProShow Producer 5.0, for example, has never pushed more than four threads and we saw the Core i7-5960X lose by 17 percent. The same happened in our custom Stitch.Efx 2.0 benchmark, too. In fact, in general, the Core i7-4790K will be faster thanks to its clock speed advantage. If you overclocked the Core i7-5960X to 4GHz or 4.4GHz on just four cores, the two should be on par in pure performance on light-duty workloads.</p> <p>In gaming, we saw some results from our tests that are a little bewildering to us. At low-resolution and low-quality settings, where the graphics card was not the bottleneck, the Core i7-4790K had the same 10 percent to 20 percent advantage. When we ran the same tests at ultra and 1080p resolution, the Core i7-5960X actually had a slight advantage in some of the runs against the Core i7-4790K chip. We think that may be from the bandwidth advantage the 5960X has. Remember, we ran all of the RAM at 2,133, so it’s not DDR4 vs. DDR3. It’s really quad-channel vs. dual-channel.</p> <p>We actually put a full breakdown of each of the benchmarks and detailed analysis on MaximumPC.com if you really want to nerd out on the performance.</p> <p><strong>What you should buy</strong></p> <p>Let’s say it again: The Core i7-5960X stands as the single fastest CPU we’ve seen to date. It’s simply a monster in performance in multi-threaded tasks and we think once you’ve overclocked it, it’ll be as fast as all the others in tasks that aren’t thread-heavy workloads.</p> <p>That, however, doesn’t mean everyone should start saving to buy a $1,000 CPU. No, for most people, the dynamic doesn’t change. For the 80 percent of you who fall into the average Joe or Jane nerd category, a four-core with Hyper-Threading still offers the best bang for the buck. It won’t be as fast as the eight-core, but unless you’re really working your rig for a living, made of money, or hate for your Handbrake encodes to take that extra 25 minutes, you can slum it with the Core i7-4790K chip. You don’t even have to heavily overclock it for the performance to be extremely peppy.</p> <p>For the remaining 20 percent who actually do a lot of encoding, rendering, professional photo editing, or heavy multi-tasking, the Core i7-5960X stands as the must-have CPU. It’s the chip you’ve been waiting for Intel to release. Just know that at purely stock speeds, you do give up performance to the Core i7-4790K part. But again, the good news is that with minor overclocking tweaks, it’ll be the equal or better of the quad-core chip.</p> <p>What’s really nice here is that for the first time, Intel is giving its “Extreme” SKU something truly extra for the $999 they spend. Previous Core i7 Extreme parts have always been good overclockers, but a lot of people bypassed them for the midrange chips such as the Core i7-4930K, which gave you the same core counts and overclocking to boot. The only true differentiation Extreme CPU buyers got was bragging rights. With Haswell-E, the Extreme buyers are the only ones with eight-core parts.</p> <p>Bang-for-the-buck buyers also get a treat from the six-core Core i7-5820K chip. At $389, it’s slightly more expensive than the chip it replaces—the $323 Core i7-4820K—but the extra price nets you two more cores. Yes, you lose PCIe bandwidth but most people probably won’t notice the difference. We didn’t have a Core i7-5820K part to test, but we &nbsp;believe on our testing with the Core i7-5960X that minor overclocking on the cheap Haswell-E would easily make it the equal of Intel’s previous six-core chips that could never be had for less than $580.</p> <p>And that, of course, brings us to the last point of discussion: Should you upgrade from your Core i7-4960X part? The easy answer is no. In pure CPU-on-CPU &nbsp;showdowns, the Core i7-4960X is about 20 percent slower in multi-threaded tasks, and in light-duty threads it’s about the same, thanks to the clock-speed advantage the Core i7-4960X has. There are two reasons we might want to toss aside the older chip, though. The first is the pathetic SATA 6Gb/s ports, which, frankly, you actually need on a heavy-duty work machine. The second reason would be the folks for whom a 20 percent reduction in rendering time would actually be worth paying for.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Click the next page to check out our Haswell-E benchmarks.</strong></p> <hr /> <h4><span style="font-size: 1.17em;">Haswell-E Benchmarks</span></h4> <p><strong>Haswell-E benchmarks overview</strong></p> <p><span style="font-size: 1.17em;">&nbsp;</span><img src="/files/u154082/haswell_e_benchmarks.png" alt="haswell e benchmarks" title="haswell e benchmarks" width="541" height="968" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Benchmark Breakdown</strong></p> <p>We like to give you the goods on a nice table but not everyone is familiar with what we use to test and what exactly the numbers means so let’s break down some of the more significant results for you.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/cinebenchsinglethreaded.png" alt="cinebench 15 single" title="cinebench 15 single" width="620" height="472" /></p> <p><strong>Cinebench 15 single-threaded performance</strong></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We used Maxon’s Cinebench 15 benchmark to see just how fast the trio of chips would run this 3D rendering test. Cinebench 15 allows you to restrict it from using all of the cores or just one core. For this test, we wanted to see how the Core i7-5960X “Haswell-E” would do against the others by measuring a single core. The winner here is the Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” chip. That’s no surprise—it uses the same microarchitecture as the big boy Haswell-E but it has a ton more clock speed on default. The Haswell-E is about 21 percent slower running at 3.5GHz. The Devil’s Canyon part is running about 900MHz faster at 4.4GHz. Remember, on default, the Haswell-E only hits 3.5GHz on single-core loads. The Haswell-E better microarchitecture also loses to the Core i7-4960X “Ivy Bridge-E,” but not by much and that’s with the Ivy Bridge-E’s clock speed advantage of 500MHz. Still, the clear winner in single-threaded performance is the higher-clocked Devil’s Canyon chip.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4790K</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/cinebenchmulti.png" alt="cinebench 15 multi" title="cinebench 15 multi" width="620" height="428" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Cinebench 15 multi-threaded performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">You don’t buy an eight-core CPU and then throw only single-thread workloads at it, so we took the handcuffs off of Cinebench 15 and let it render with all available threads. On the Haswell-E part, that’s 16 threads of fun, on Ivy Bridge-E it’s 12-threads, and on Devil’s Canyon we’re looking at eight-threads. The winner by a clear margin is the Haswell-E part. Its performance is an astounding 49 percent faster than the Devil’s Canyon and about 22 percent faster than Ivy Bridge-E. We’ll just have to continue to remind you, too: this is with a severe clock penalty. That 49-percent-faster score is with all eight cores running at 3.3GHz vs all four of the Devil’s Canyon cores buzzing along at 4.4GHz. That’s an 1,100MHz clock speed advantage. Ivy Bridge-E also has a nice 700MHz clock advantage than Haswell-E. Chalk this up as a big, huge win for Haswell-E.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/povray.png" alt="pov-ray" title="pov-ray" width="620" height="491" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>POV-Ray performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We wanted a second opinion on rendering performance, so we ran POV-Ray, a freeware ray tracer that has roots that reach back to the Amiga. Again, Haswell-E wins big-time with a 47 percent performance advantage over Devil’s Canyon and a 25 percent advantage over Ivy Bridge-E. Yeah, and all that stuff we said about the clock speed advantage the quad-core and six-core had, that applies here, too. Blah, blah, blah.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/premierepro.png" alt="premiere pro" title="premiere pro" width="620" height="474" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Premiere Pro CS6 performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">One sanity check (benchmark results Intel produces to let you know what kind of performance to expect) said Haswell-E would outperform quad-core Intel parts by 45 percent in Premiere Pro Creative Cloud when working with 4K content. Our benchmark, however, doesn’t use 4K content yet, so we wondered if our results would be similar. For our test, we render out a 1080p-resolution file using source material shot by us on a Canon EOS 5D Mk II using multiple timelines and transitions. We restrict it to the CPU rather than using the GPU as well. Our result? The 3.3GHz Haswell-E was about 45 percent faster than the 4.4GHz Devil’s Canyon chip. Bada-bing! The two extra cores also spit out the render about 19 percent faster than the six-core Ivy Bridge-E. That’s fairly consistent performance we’re seeing between the different workload disciplines of 3D rendering and video encoding so far, and again, big, big wins for the Haswell-E part.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/handbrake.png" alt="handbrake" title="handbrake" width="620" height="407" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Handbrake Encoding performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">For our encoding test, we took a 1080p-resolution video file and used Handbrake 0.9.9 to transcode it into a file using the Android tablet profile. Handbrake is very multi-threaded and leverages the CPU for its encoding and transcoding. Our results were still fairly stellar, with Haswell-E CPU performing about 38 percent faster than the Devil’s Canyon part. Things were uncomfortably close with the Ivy Bridge-E part though, with the eight-core chip coming in only about 13 percent faster than the six-core chip. Since the Ivy Bridge-E cores are slower than Haswell cores clock-for-clock, we were a bit surprised at how close they were. In the past, we have seen memory bandwidth play a role in encoding, but not necessarily Handbrake. Interestingly, despite locking all three parts down at 2,133MHz, the Ivy Bridge-E does provide more bandwidth than the Haswell-E part. One other thing we should mention: Intel’s “sanity check” numbers to let the media know what to expect for Handbrake performance showed a tremendous advantage for the Haswell-E. Against a Devil’s Canyon chip, Haswell-E was 69 percent faster and 34 percent faster than the Ivy Bridge-E chip. Why the difference? The workload. Intel uses a 4K-resolution file and transcodes it down to 1080p. We haven’t tried it at 4K, but we may, as Intel has provided the 4K-resolution sample files to the media. If true, and we have no reason to doubt it, it’s a good message for those who actually work at Ultra HD resolutions that the eight-cores can pay off. Overall, we’re declaring Haswell-E the winner here.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/x264pass1.png" alt="x264 pass 1" title="x264 pass 1" width="620" height="496" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>X264 HD 5.01 Pass 1 performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We’ve been using TechArp.com’s X264 HD 5.0.1 benchmark to measure performance on new PCs. The test does two passes using the freeware x264 encoding library. The first pass is seemingly a little more sensitive to clock speeds and memory bandwidth rather than just pure core count. A higher frame rate is better. The first pass isn’t as core-sensitive, and memory bandwidth clock speed have more dividends here. Haswell still gives you a nice 36 percent boost over the Devil’s Canyon but that Ivy Bridge-E chip, despite its older core microarchitecture, comes is only beaten by 12 percent—too close for comfort. Of course, we’d throw in the usual caveat about the very large clock differences between the chips, but we’ve already said that three times. Oh, and yes, we did actually plagiarize by lifting two sentences from a previous CPU review for our description. That’s OK, we gave ourselves permission.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X but not by much</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/x264pass2.png" alt="x264 pass 2" title="x264 pass 2" width="620" height="499" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>X264 HD 5.01 Pass 2 performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Pass two of the X264 HD 5.01 benchmark is more sensitive to core and thread counts, and we see the Haswell-E come in with a nice 46 percent performance advantage against the Devil’s Canyon chip. The Ivy Bridge-E, though, still represents well. The Haswell-E chip is “only” 22 percent faster than it. Still, this is a solid win for the Haswell-E chip. We also like how we’re seeing very similar scaling in multiple encoding tests of roughly 45 percent. With Intel saying it’s seeing 69 percent in 4K resolution content in Handbrake, we’re wondering if the Haswell-E would offer similar scaling if we just moved all of our tests up to 4K.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><strong>Click the next page for even more Haswell-E benchmarks.</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/stitch.png" alt="stitch" title="stitch" width="620" height="473" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Stitch.EFx 2.0 Performance&nbsp;</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Again, we like to mix up our workloads to stress different tasks that aren’t always multi-threaded to take advantage of a 12-core Xeon chip. For this test, we shot about 200 images with a Canon EOS 7D using a GigaPan motorized head. That’s roughly 1.9GB in images to make our gigapixel image using Stitch.EFx 2.0. The first third of the render is single-threaded as it stitches together the images. The final third is multi-threaded as it does the blending, perspective correction, and other intensive image processing. It’s a good blend of single-threaded performance and multi-threaded, but we expected the higher clocked parts to take the lead. No surprise, the Devil’s Canyon 4.4GHz advantage puts it in front, and the Haswell-E comes in about 14 percent slower with its 1.1GHz clock disadvantage. The clock speed advantage of the 4GHz Ivy Bridge-E also pays dividends, and we see the Haswell-E losing by about 10 percent. The good news? A dual-core Pentium K running at 4.7GHz coughed up a score of 1,029 seconds (not represented on the chart) and is roughly 22 percent slower than the CPU that costs about 11 times more.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4790K</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/7zip.png" alt="7-zip" title="7-zip" width="620" height="477" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>7-Zip Performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The popular and free zip utility, 7-Zip, has a nifty built-in benchmark that tells you the theoretical file-compression performance a CPU. You can pick the workload size and the number of threads. For our test, we maxed it out at 16-threads using an 8MB workload. That gives the Haswell-E familiar advantage in performance—about 45 percent—over the Devil’s Canyon part. Against that Ivy Bridge-E part though, it’s another uncomfortably close one at 8 percent. Still, a win is a win even if we have to say that if you have a shiny Core i7-4960X CPU in your system, you’re still doing fine.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/sandra.png" alt="sisoft sandra" title="sisoft sandra" width="620" height="421" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Sisoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth (GB/s)</strong></span></p> <p>Since this is the first time we’re seeing DDR4 in a desktop part, we wanted to see how it stacked up in benchmarks. But, before you get too excited, remember that we set all three systems to 2133 data rates. The Devil’s Canyon part is dual-channel and the Ivy Bridge-E and Haswell-E are both quad-channel. With the memory set at 2133, we expected Haswell-E to be on par with the Ivy Bridge-E chip, but oddly, it was slower, putting out about 40GB/s of bandwidth. It’s still more than the 27GB/s the Devil’s Canyon could hit, but we expected it to be closer to double of what the Ivy Bridge-E was producing. For what it’s worth, we did double-check that we were operating in quad-channel mode and the clock speeds of our DIMMs. It’s possible this may change as the hardware we see becomes more final. We’ll also note that even at the same clock, DDR4 does suffer a latency penalty over DDR3. That would also be missing the point of DDR4, though. The new memory should give us larger modules and hit higher frequencies far easier, too, which will nullify that latency issue. Still, the winner is Ivy Bridge-E.</p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/3dmarkgpu.png" alt="3d mark" title="3d mark" width="620" height="457" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>3DMark Firestrike Overall Performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Even though 3DMark Firestrike is primarily a graphics benchmark, not having a 3DMark Firestrike score is like not having coffee in the morning. Basically, it’s a tie between all three chips, and 3DMark Firestrike is working exactly as you expect it to: as a GPU benchmark.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Tie</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/3dmarkphysics.png" alt="3d mark physics" title="3d mark physics" width="620" height="477" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>3DMark Firestrike Physics Performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">3DMark does factor in the CPU performance for its physics tests. It’s certainly not weighted for multi-core counts as other tests are, but we see the Haswell-E with a decent 29 percent bump over the Devil’s Canyon chip. But, breathing down the neck of the Haswell-E is the Ivy Bridge-E chip. To us, that’s damned near a tie. Overall, the Haswell-E wins, but in gaming tasks—at stock clocks—paying for an 8-core monster is unnecessary except for those running multi-GPU setups.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/valveparticle.png" alt="valve particle" title="valve particle" width="620" height="451" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Valve Particle Benchmark Performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Valve’s Particle test was originally developed to show off quad-core performance to the world. It uses the company’s own physics magic, so it should give some indication of how well a chip will run. We’ve long suspected the test is cache and RAM latency happy. That seems to be backed by the numbers because despite the 1.1GHz advantage the Devil’s Canyon chip has, the Haswell-E is in front to the tune of 15 percent. The Ivy Bridge-E chip though, with its large cache, lower latency DDR3, and assloads of memory bandwidth actually comes out on top by about 3 percent. We’ll again note the Ivy Bridge-E part has a 700MHz advantage, so this is a very nice showing for the Haswell-E part.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/dirtlow.png" alt="dirt showdown low" title="dirt showdown low" width="620" height="438" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Dirt Showdown low-resolution performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">For our gaming tests, we decided to run the games at 1366x768 resolution and at very low settings to take the graphics card out of the equation. In one way, you imagine this as what it would look like if you had infinitely powerful graphics cards in your system. As most games are not multi-threaded and are perfectly fine with a quad-core with Hyper-Threading, we fully expected the parts with the highest clock speeds to win all of our low-resolution, low-quality tests. No surprise, the Devil’s Canyon part at 4.4GHz private schools the 3.3GHz Haswell-E chip. And, no surprise, the 4GHz Ivy Bridge-E also eats the Haswell-E’s lunch and drinks its milk, too.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4790K</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/dirtultra.png" alt="dirt showdown ultra performance" title="dirt showdown ultra performance" width="620" height="475" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Dirt Showdown 1080p, ultra performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">To make sure we put everything in the right context, we also ran the Dirt Showdown at 1920x1080 resolution at Ultra settings. This puts most of the load on the single GeForce GTX 780 we used for our tests. Interestingly, we saw the Haswell-E with a slight edge over the Devil’s Canyon and Ivy Bridge-E parts. We’re not sure, but we don’t think it’s a very significant difference, but it’s still technically a win for Haswell-E.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/hitmanlow.png" alt="hitman low" title="hitman low" width="620" height="502" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Hitman: Absolution, low quality, low performance&nbsp;</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We did the same with Hitman: Absolution, running it at low resolution and its lowest settings. The Haswell-E came in about 12 percent slower the Devil’s Canyon part and 13 percent slower than the Ivy Bridge-E.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/hitmanultra.png" alt="hitman ultra" title="hitman ultra" width="620" height="479" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Hitman: Absolution, 1080p, ultra quality</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Again, we tick the settings to an actual resolution and quality at which people actually play. Once we do that, the gap closes slightly, with the Haswell-E trailing the Devil’s Canyon by about 8 percent and the Ivy Bridge-E by 9 percent. Still, these are all very playable frame rates and few could tell the difference.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/tombraider.png" alt="tomb raider low" title="tomb raider low" width="620" height="465" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Tomb Raider, low quality, low resolution.</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We did the same low quality, low resolution trick with Tomb Raider and while need to see 500 frames per second, it’s pretty much a wash here.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Tie</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/tomraiderulti.png" alt="tomb raider ultra" title="tomb raider ultra" width="620" height="472" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Tomb Raider, 1080p, Ultimate</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">At normal resolutions and settings we were a little surprised, as the Haswell-E actually had a 15 percent advantage over the Devil’s Canyon CPU. We’re not exactly sure why, as the only real advantage we can see is memory bandwidth and large caches on the Haswell-E part. We seriously doubt it’s due to the number of CPU cores. The Haswell-E also has a very, very slight lead against the Ivy Bridge-E part, too. That’s not bad considering the clock penalty it’s running at.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/metrolastlight.png" alt="metro last light low" title="metro last light low" width="620" height="503" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Metro Last Light, low resolution, low quality</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">In Metro Last light, at low settings it’s a wash between all of them.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Tie</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/metroveryhigh.png" alt="metro last light high" title="metro last light high" width="620" height="502" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Metro Last Light, 1080p, Very High quality</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Metro at high-quality settings mirrors that of Hitman: Absolution, and we think favors the parts with higher clock speeds. We should also note that none of the chips with the $500 graphics card could run Metro at 1080p at high-quality settings. That is, of course, you consider 30 to 40 fps to be “smooth.” We don’t. Interestingly, the Core i7-4690X was the overall winner.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4960X</span></p> <p><strong>Conclusion:</strong> If you skipped to the very last page to read the conclusion, you’re in the wrong place. You need to go back to page 4 to read our conclusions and what you should buy. And no, we didn’t do this to generate just one more click either though that would be very clever of us wouldn’t it?</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/haswell-e_review_2014#comments benchmarks cpu haswell e intel ivy bridge e maximum pc processor Review Specs News Reviews Features Tue, 09 Sep 2014 23:03:30 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28431 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Top 20 Games We Want Remastered http://www.maximumpc.com/top_20_games_we_want_remastered_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Games worth replaying in HD</h3> <p>No matter how old you are, there will always be at least one game that you’ll want to revisit and play all over again. Maybe even more than once. What is it that makes you want to play again? Great gameplay, great story, or even a <a title="30 Best PC Game Soundtracks" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/30_best_pc_game_soundtracks_all_time" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">great soundtrack</span></a> are some of the factors that keeps a game on our minds. There is one other factor that helps to make a game memorable: the graphics. But sadly, as time marches on, the majority of games just can’t hold their own against the ever-increasing advancements in graphics technology. Inevitably, when we go back and play many of those games, we can’t help but cringe at how they look.</p> <p>Thankfully, there seems to be a bit of an HD renaissance happening for PC games these days. The recent announcement that <a title="MPC Grim Fandango" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/double_fine_confirms_grim_fandango_remake_headed_pc_2014" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Grim Fandango</span></a> is being remastered is certainly a reason to celebrate. And it's also nice we're getting an HD remake of GTA V. But these are but a few awesome games to be revisited. Other games, such as Age of Empires II, have been touched by the hand of HD. Then there is The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, which was fully re-imagined with a remastered musical score, full voiceover, and new art style.&nbsp;</p> <p>So we decided to come up with a list of games, in chronological order by release date, that we would like to see remastered.&nbsp;</p> <p>Obviously, we are going to exclude a lot games. As a result of this, we would love to hear what games you think should be remastered and why. Please sound off in the comments below!</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <span style="color: #ff0000;"><a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></span></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/top_20_games_we_want_remastered_2014#comments 20 games remastered remastered classic games remastered PC games Top 20 games remastered Gaming Features Fri, 05 Sep 2014 18:43:36 +0000 Sean D Knight 28372 at http://www.maximumpc.com Build it: Real-World 4K Gaming Test Bench http://www.maximumpc.com/build_it_real-world_4k_gaming_test_bench_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>This month, we find out what it takes to run games at 4K, and do so using a sweet open-air test bench</h3> <p>The computer world loves it when specs double from one generation to the next. We’ve gone from 16-bit to 32-bit, and finally 64-bit computing. We had 2GB RAM sticks, then 4GB, then 8GB. With monitor resolutions, 1920x1080 has been the standard for a while, but we never quite doubled it, as 2560x1600 was a half-step, but now that 4K resolution has arrived, it’s effectively been exactly doubled, with the panels released so far being 3840x2160. We know it’s not actually 4,000 pixels, but everyone is still calling it “4K.” Though resolution is doubled over 1080p, it’s the equivalent number of pixels as four 1080p monitors, so it takes a lot of horsepower to play games smoothly. For example, our 2013 Dream Machine used four Nvidia GeForce GTX Titans and a CPU overclocked to 5GHz to handle it. Those cards cost $4,000 altogether though, so it wasn’t a scenario for mere mortals. This month, we wanted to see what 4K gaming is like with more-affordable parts. We also wanted to try a distinctive-looking open test bench from DimasTech. This type of case is perfect for SLI testing, too, since it makes component installation and swapping much quicker.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_29.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_28.jpg" width="620" height="417" /></a></p> <h3>Triple Threat</h3> <p>Instead of GTX Titans, we’re stepping it down a couple of notches to Nvidia GTX 780s. They provide similar gaming performance, but at half the cost. We’re also using “only” three cards instead of four, so the price difference from Dream Machine to this rig is a whopping $2500 (even more if you count the fact that the Dream Machine cards were water-cooled). These cards still need a lot of bandwidth, though, so we’re sticking with an Intel LGA 2011 motherboard, this time an Asus X79 Deluxe. It’s feature-packed and can overclock a CPU like nobody’s business. The X79 Deluxe is running Intel’s Core i7-4960X CPU, which has six cores and twelve processing threads. It’s kind of a beast. We’re cooling it with a Cooler Master Glacer 240L water cooler, which comes with a 240mm radiator.</p> <p>We’ll also need a boatload of power, so we grabbed a Corsair AX1200 PSU which, as its name suggests, supplies up to 1200 watts. It’s also fully modular, meaning that its cables are all detachable. Since we’re only using one storage device in this build, we can keep a lot of spare cables tucked away in a bag, instead of cluttering up the lower tray.</p> <p>All of this is being assembled on a DimasTech Easy V3 test bench, which is a laser-cut steel, hand-welded beauty made in Italy and painted glossy red. It can handle either a 360mm or 280mm radiator as well, and it comes with an articulating arm to move a case fan around to specific areas. It seems like the ultimate open-air test bench, so we’re eager to see what we can do with it.&nbsp;&nbsp; \</p> <h4>1. Case Working</h4> <p>The DimasTech Easy V3 comes in separate parts, but the bulk of it is an upper and lower tray. You slide the lower one in and secure it with a bundled set of six aluminum screws. The case’s fasteners come in a handy plastic container with a screw-on lid. Shown in the photo are the two chromed power and reset buttons, which are the last pieces to be attached. They have pre-attached hexagonal washers, which can be a bit tricky to remove. We had to use pliers on one of them. You’ll need to wire them up yourself, but there’s a diagram included. Then, connect the other head to the motherboard’s front panel header, which has its own diagram printed on the board.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_29.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_28.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. Getting Testy</h4> <p>Unfortunately, the Easy V3 does not ship with a 2.5-inch drive bay, nor do standard 3.5-inch to 2.5-inch adapters fit inside the bays. If you want to install a solid-state drive, you need to purchase the correctly sized bay or adapter separately from DimasTech. Since this is an open test bench, which is designed for swapping parts quickly, we chose to just leave the drive unsecured. It has no moving parts, so it doesn’t need to be screwed down or even laid flat to work properly. We also moved the 5.25-inch drive bay from the front to the back, to leave as much room as possible to work with our bundle of PSU cables. The lower tray has a number of pre-drilled holes to customize drive bay placement. Meanwhile, our power supply must be oriented just like this to properly attach to the case’s specified bracket. It’s not bad, though, because this positions the power switch higher up, where it’s less likely to get bumped accidentally.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_24.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_23.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>3. Able Cables</h4> <p>The best way to install a modular power supply is to attach your required cables first. This time, we got a kit from Corsair that has individually sleeved wires. It costs $40, and also comes in red, white, or blue. Each of these kits is designed to work with a specific Corsair power supply. They look fancier than the stock un-sleeved cables, and the ones for motherboard and CPU power are a lot more flexible than the stock versions. All of the connectors are keyed, so you can’t accidentally plug them into the wrong socket. We used a few black twist ties to gather in the PCI Express cables.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_27.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_26.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>4. Taking a Stand(off)</h4> <p>The Easy V3 comes with an unusually tall set of metal motherboard standoffs. These widgets prevent the motherboard from touching the tray below and possibly creating a short circuit. You can screw these in by hand, optionally tightening them up with a pair of pliers. Once those were in, we actually used some thumbscrews bundled with the case to screw the board down on the standoffs. You can use more standard screws, but we had plenty to spare, and we liked the look. The tall standoffs also work nicely with custom liquid cooling loops, because there is enough clearance to send thick tubing underneath (and we’ve seen lots of photos on the Internet of such setups). For us, it provided enough room to install a right-angle SATA cable and send it through the oval cut-out in the tray and down to the SSD below.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_23.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_22.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>5. Triple Play</h4> <p>This bench has a black bracket that holds your PCIe cards and can be slid parallel to the motherboard to accommodate different board layouts. It will take up to four two-slot cards, and DimasTech sells a longer 10-slot bracket on its website for workstation boards. We had to use the provided aluminum thumbscrews to secure the cards, since all of the screws we had in The Lab were either too coarsely threaded or not the right diameter, which is unusual. Installing cards is easy, because your view of the board slot is not blocked by a case. The video cards will end up sandwiched right next to each other, though, so you’ll need a tool to release the slot-locking mechanism on two of them (we used a PCI slot cover). The upper two cards can get quite toasty, so we moved the bench’s built-in flexible fan arm right in front of their rear intake area, and we told the motherboard to max out its RPM. We saw an immediate FPS boost in our tests, because by default these cards will throttle once they get to about 83 C.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_21.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_20.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>6. Cool Under Pressure</h4> <p>Since the Glacer 240L cooler has integrated tubing that’s relatively short, the orientation pictured was our only option. We could have put the fans on the other side of the radiator, but since performance was already superb, we decided we liked the looked of them with the grills on top. To mount the radiator, we used the bundled screws, which became the right length when we added some rubber gaskets, also included.&nbsp; The radiator actually doesn’t give off much heat, even when the CPU is overclocked and firing on all cylinders, so we didn’t have to worry about the nearby power supply fan pulling in a lot of hot intake. In fact, the CPU never crossed 65C in all of our benchmarks, even when overclocked to 4.5GHz. We even threw Prime95 at it, and it didn’t break a sweat. Temperatures are also affected by ambient temperatures, though. With our open-air layout, heat coming out of the GPUs doesn’t get anywhere near the radiator, and The Lab’s air conditioning helps keep temperatures low, so it’s pretty much an ideal environment, short of being installed in a refrigerator. Your mileage may vary.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_22.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_21.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small_18.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small_17.jpg" title="Main Image" width="620" height="382" /></a></p> <h3>A Golden Triangle</h3> <p>Despite our penchant for extreme performance, we rarely build triple-GPU systems, so we weren’t sure how well they’d handle 4K, but we figured they’d kick ass. Thankfully, they handled UHD quite well. So well, in fact, that we also tested the system with “only” two GTX 780s and still got respectable gaming performance. For example, with two cards, the Bioshock Infinite benchmark reported an average of a little over 60 FPS on its highest settings. In Tomb Raider, we disabled anti-aliasing and TressFX, maxing out all the other settings, and we still averaged 62 FPS. We benchmarked the opening sequence of Assassin’s Creed 4 with AA and PhysX disabled and everything else maxed out, and we averaged 47 FPS. The Metro: Last Light benchmark, however, averaged 25FPS on max settings, even with PhysX disabled.</p> <p>Unfortunately, we had trouble getting Hitman: Absolution and Metro: Last Light to recognize the third card. This issue is not unheard of, and made us think: If you stick with two GPUs, you no longer need the PCI Express bandwidth of expensive LGA 2011 CPUs, or their equally expensive motherboards, or a huge power supply. That potentially cuts the cost of this system in half, from around $4200 to roughly $2100. You could also save money by going with, say, a Core i7-4930K instead, and a less expensive LGA 2011 motherboard and a smaller SSD. But it’s still a pretty steep climb in price when going from two cards to three.</p> <p>The test bench itself feels sturdy and looks sweet, but we wish that it accepted standard computer-type screws, and that it came with a 2.5-inch drive bay or could at least fit a standard 3.5-to-2.5 adapter. We’d also recommend getting a second articulating fan arm if you’re liquid-cooling, so that one could provide airflow to the voltage regulators around the CPU, and the other could blow directly on your video cards. With the fan aimed at our cards, we instantly gained another 10 FPS in the Tomb Raider benchmark.</p> <p>The Seagate 600 SSD was nice and speedy, although unzipping compressed files seemed to take longer than usual. The X79 Deluxe motherboard gave us no trouble, and the bundled “Asus AI Suite III” software has lots of fine-grained options for performance tuning and monitoring, and it looks nice. Overall, this build was not only successful but educational, too.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light"> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>ZERO</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>POINT</strong></p> </th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Premiere Pro CS6 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">2,000</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,694</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td>831</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">707</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,446</td> <td>1,246</td> </tr> <tr> <td>x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td>21.1</td> <td>25.6<strong></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Batmans Arkam City (fps)</td> <td>76</td> <td>169<strong></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">3DMark11 Extreme</td> <td class="item-dark">5,847&nbsp;</td> <td>12,193</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold;"><em>The zero-point machine compared here consists of a 3.2GHz Core i7-3930K and 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600 on an Asus P9X79 Deluxe motherboard. It has a GeForce GTX 690, a Corsair Neutron GTX SSD, and 64-bit Windows 7 Professional.</em></span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/build_it_real-world_4k_gaming_test_bench_2014#comments 4k computer gaming pc geforce Hardware maximum pc May issues 2014 nvidia open Test Bench Features Wed, 03 Sep 2014 19:29:01 +0000 Tom McNamara 28364 at http://www.maximumpc.com Civilization: Beyond Earth Hands-On http://www.maximumpc.com/civilization_beyond_earth_hands-on_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>We play through the first 100 turns of Firaxis' next Civ game</h3> <p>We're still a couple months away from the retail release of Civilization: Beyond Earth (C:BE), but publisher 2K Games couldn't hold back the horde any longer. We've been eager to try it out because it's Civ, but also because it feels like a spiritual sequel to Alpha Centauri, which itself dealt with a nagging question from earlier entries in the series: What happens when you win the game by launching an interstellar ship into space? Where do those people go? At first glance, C:BE looks like a sci-fi Civilization V with an exotic color palette, but a number of new layers unfolded during our time with it.</p> <p>Most Civ games begin with selecting your starting conditions (unless you like to live on the edge and randomize all your choices). Your options include the usual things like world size, continent shape, and faction leader characteristics. In the build that we played, we could choose from three randomly generated planets. We could also let the game randomly choose one of those three for us, or we could tell C:BE to roll the dice and generate three new worlds. If that's not your cup of tea, we could also go to the "Advanced Worlds" menu and choose from about ten worlds with scripted conditions. 82 Eridani e, for example, has no oceans and little water. Or we could choose Archipelago, which was basically the opposite. Eta Vulpeculae b, meanwhile, has one large continent and an abundance of resources and wildlife.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/screenshot_terrain_lush02.jpg" width="600" height="354" style="text-align: center;" /></p> <p>Six of the worlds that are accessible from this menu come from the Exoplanets Map Pack, which you get by pre-ordering the game before October 24th. Each of these planets will randomize its geography each time you play, leading to an additional layer of replayability. We were not able to dig up a menu that allowed us to fine-tune specific map or gameplay attributes (such as disabling neutral factions or hostile wildlife), but this was not a final build.</p> <p>Then you can also choose to begin the game with a soldier or worker unit, instead of an explorer. Or you could have a clinic installed in your first city automatically. This building improves the city health stat, which indicates population growth and the happiness of your citizens. You will also choose what ship type you want to use to arrive on the planet. This determines bonuses like starting with 100 energy (the currency of C:BE); the initial visibility of coast lines, alien nests, certain resources; and the size of the fog of war around your first city.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/screen_combat_satellitebombard.jpg" width="600" height="341" style="text-align: center;" /></p> <p>Then you choose your colonist type. For example, the Refugee type adds +2 food to every city, which promotes growth. Engineers give you +2 production in every city, which decreases the time it takes to construct buildings. Scientists, unsurprisingly, give you +2 science in every city, which increases the speed at which you research new technology. Lastly, you designate your sponsor, which determines who your faction leader is. There are no historical leaders this time, like George Washington or Ghandi. This new gang consists of fictional characters set in a speculative future. We had eight sponsors to choose from. Going with the African Union grants us +10% food in growing cities when their Health rating is 1 or greater. With the Pan-Asian Cooperative, you get a 10% production bonus for Wonders, and 25% faster workers.</p> <p>So after agonizing over all of those branching decisions, you can finally drop into the game. If you're familiar with the last couple Civ games, the interface should be pretty familiar. Your resources appear in the upper right-hand corner, with positive and negative numbers indicating gains or losses per turn. Hovering the cursor over each one gives you a detailed breakdown of where the resources are coming from, and how they're being consumed. Your lower right-hand corner is for notifications and to run through your list of available actions The lower left-hand shows you your selected unit (if any) and its abilities.</p> <p style="text-align: right;"><a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/civilization_beyond_earth_hands-on_2014?page=0,1" target="_blank"><strong>Page 2: Exploration, affinities, and virtues</strong></a></p> <hr /> <p>But while the UI should be familiar, this is definitely an exotic planet, with unfamiliar formations like canyons and craters, clouds of poisonous gas, alien critters used for resources, and other alien critters that are actively hostile. It's definitely dangerous terrain for a fledgling civilization. But you'll find resource pods dotted throughout the landscape, which usually contain caches of energy or satellites. Satellites are launched into orbit and extract energy from the planet's surface, though it's not clear how. They stay up for a limited time, though, so you'll need to keep finding them, or produce them on your own. You'll also encounter stations, which behave similarly to city-states in Civ V.</p> <p>And your explorer (scout) unit can excavate native ruins and giant animal bones to grant more bonuses, like free technology. He can only carry one of these excavation kits at once, though, and he needs to return to a city to get more. It also takes five turns to excavate something. This slower pace maintains the unit's viability for a longer stretch than in previous games, and compels you to make more agonizing decisions. Competing factions also don't like it when you excavate something that's closer to their territory than to yours. So you have to balance your desire for discovery against your long-term political risks.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/screen_fielding_diplomacy.jpg" title="text-align: center;" width="600" height="341" /></p> <p>Meanwhile, you'll be conducting research on new buildings and units. Instead of going left to right and hitting up pretty much everything along the way, you begin from a central point on the research map and must choose between different branches, each of which contains "leaves" or individual research choices. Each branch has a theme, usually divided into cultural, military, and scientific categories. You can try focusing on one theme, or it might be better to balance as many as you can. Since we were limited to 100 turns, we weren't able to see which turned out to be the better strategy. The things you encounter on the map, the things you build, and the tech you research will frequently trigger binary choices. At one point, the game made us choose between two stations to conduct business with. One station specialized in converting military equipment for civilian use, while another could increase our science score. Both choices have effects on your relationship with the planet's flora and fauna, and you have three affinities to balance: Harmony, Supremacy, and Purity.</p> <p>Each choice grants you a mix of experience points in each affinity, and enough points in one will move you up a level and grant you a bonus. Hovering your mouse over each affinity (located in the upper left-hand corner) tells you what different levels will do. Level 1 of Harmony, for example, reduces the aggression level of the native creatures. Eventually you'll actually gain health from the poison clouds (called "miasma"), and the highest level of your primary affinity grants a critical element for one of the five available victory conditions. At the same time, you'll eventually be at odds with the factions that have different affinities than yours. You can attempt to smooth over relations by establishing lucrative trading routes, engaging in joint military actions, and good old-fashioned bribery. Or you can attempt to wipe them off the map, if you're not into the whole diplomacy thing.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/screen_ui_virtues.jpg" width="600" height="341" style="text-align: center;" /></p> <p>And let's not forget about the Virtue system. These operate like Civ V's social policies, but this time there are four of them with nine tiers, so there's more focus and depth to your choices here. On top of that is a grid of synergies, designed to encourage the exploration of multiple virtues. Activating the first tier of each virtue, for example, gives you a bonus activation of your choosing.</p> <p>Eventually, the 2K staff gently ushered us out the door, and we were reluctant to leave. Beyond Earth has a more layers of faction evolution and political intrigue than we're used to seeing in Civ, and we were eager to see the choices that the game would present us with next. We also wanted to build more stuff, of course, and establish more trade routes, explore more of the map, investigate the critters, and maybe start a war or two. Thankfully, we only have about eight more weeks until the game launches into orbit.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/civilization_beyond_earth_hands-on_2014#comments alpha centauri beyond earth civiliation pc game PC gaming pre-review Sci-fi Sid Meier strategy Games Gaming News Features Web Exclusive Thu, 28 Aug 2014 18:43:23 +0000 Tom McNamara 28439 at http://www.maximumpc.com Falcon Northwest Tiki Z Video Walkthrough http://www.maximumpc.com/falcon_northwest_tiki_z_video_walkthrough <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/tiki_z.png" alt="tiki z" title="tiki z" width="250" height="169" style="float: right;" />Nvidia’s Titan Z in a console-sized PC case</h3> <p>Small form factor PCs are sexy, especially when you’ve got sexy specs like Falcon Northwest’s Tiki Z. In the video below, Gordon walks you through the Tiki Z’s components which include Nvidia’s Titan Z. That’s right, you’ve essentially got two Titan Blacks crammed into a PC the size of a console. If that weren’t enough, it also has a 600-watt PSU, 4TB HDD, 2 SSDs in RAID 0, an overclocked Devil’s Canyon CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a Blu-ray burner.&nbsp;</p> <p>Did we mention that it looks beautiful and is custom-painted? The one drawback? This thing costs $7,500! Watch the video below for more details.</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/gP0oGngbUjY" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/falcon_northwest_tiki_z_video_walkthrough#comments console devils canyon falcon northwest tiki z MPCTV nvidia geforce titan z sff Small Form Factor Features Wed, 27 Aug 2014 21:24:07 +0000 The Maximum PC Staff 28430 at http://www.maximumpc.com The Coolest Google Chrome Shortcuts You Never Knew About http://www.maximumpc.com/coolest_google_chrome_shortcuts_you_never_knew_about_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><img src="/files/u154280/google_chrome.png" alt="Google Chrome" title="Google Chrome" width="250" height="75" style="float: right;" /></p> <h3>Speed up your browsing experience with these nifty timesavers</h3> <p>In a little over five years, Google Chrome has gobbled up roughly 43% of the browser market. Its popularity comes from a snappy user experience, convenient apps, and the plethora of short cuts it provides users. Currently, Chrome offers over 50 shortcuts to make browsing take less effort. We’ve rounded up 12 of the best Chrome shortcuts that you may not have heard about. Know of any other useful Chrome shortcuts?</p> <p>Let us know in comments below!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/coolest_google_chrome_shortcuts_you_never_knew_about_2014#comments browser Google Chrome Shortcuts hotkeys tips Features Wed, 27 Aug 2014 18:51:11 +0000 Chris Zele 27298 at http://www.maximumpc.com