Review en OCZ Vertex 460 240GB Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Rumors of its death were greatly exaggerated</h3> <p>That last time we heard from OCZ was back before the end of 2013, when the company was in the grips of bankruptcy and nobody was sure what its future held. Fast forward to March 2014, and things are looking rather good for the formerly beleaguered company, much to everyone’s surprise. Rather than simply dissolve and fade away like we had feared, the company has been acquired by storage behemoth Toshiba, and is now operating as an independent subsidiary.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/vertex460_lrg_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/vertex460_lrg_small.jpg" alt="OCZ’s new drive has a more subdued, corporate look to it, thanks to a takeover by “the man.”" title="OCZ Vertex 460 240GB" width="620" height="449" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>OCZ’s new drive has a more subdued, corporate look to it, thanks to a takeover by “the man.”</strong></p> <p>The best news is OCZ’s NAND-acquisition troubles are seemingly a thing of the past, as Toshiba is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of NAND. So, it is no surprise that the first drive we’re seeing from the new venture is essentially a reborn Vector drive, only with Toshiba NAND flash. Dubbed the Vertex 460, this “new” drive blends the company’s proprietary Barefoot 3 controller found on its high-end Vector drives with Toshiba’s 19nm MLC NAND flash, so it’s ditching the Micron NAND it used previously. The result is basically a slight watering-down of its Vector 150 drive in order to make it more affordable and consumer-friendly. It also needed to bring its Barefoot 3 controller over to its mainstream line of Vertex-branded drives, so this drive accomplishes that feat, as well.</p> <p>In many ways, the Vertex 460 is very similar to the company’s recent Vector 150 drive, the only difference being the Vector has a five-year warranty and has a higher overall endurance rating to reflect its use of binned NAND flash. The Vertex 460 is no slouch, though, and is rated to handle up to 20GB of NAND writes per day for three years. The drive also utilizes over-provisioning, so 12 percent of the drive is reserved for NAND management by the Barefoot 3 controller. Though you lose some capacity, you gain longer endurance and better performance, so it’s a worthwhile trade-off. The Vertex 460 also offers hardware encryption support, which is very uncommon for a mainstream drive, and though we’d never use it, it’s nice to have options. Otherwise, its specs are par for the course in that it’s a 7mm drive and is available in 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB flavors. It’s also bundled with a 3.5-inch bay adapter as well as a copy of Acronis True Image, which is appreciated.</p> <p>When we strapped the Vertex to our test bench, we saw results that were consistently impressive. In every test, the Vertex 460 was very close to the fastest drives in its class, and in all scenarios it’s very close to saturating the SATA bus, so it’s not really possible for it to be any faster. It had no problem handling small queue depths of four commands in ATTO, and held its own with a 32 queue depth in Iometer, too. It was a minute slower than the Samsung 840 EVO in our Sony Vegas test, which writes a 20GB uncompressed AVI file to the drive, but also much faster than the Crucial M500 in the same test. Overall, there were no weak points whatsoever in its performance, but it is not faster than the Samsung 840 EVO, and its OCZ Toolbox software utility is extremely rudimentary compared to the Samsung app. Though the Vertex 460 is an overall very solid drive, it doesn’t exceed our expectations in any particular category. In other words, it’s a great SSD, but not quite Kick Ass.</p> <p><strong>$190,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> Hard Drive Hardware HDD May issues 2014 OCZ Vertex 460 240GB Review solid state drive ssd Reviews Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:16:12 +0000 Josh Norem 28382 at Nvidia Shield Tablet Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Updated: Now with video review!&nbsp;</h3> <p>Despite its problems, we actually liked <a title="Nvidia Shield review" href="" target="_blank">Nvidia’s original Shield Android gaming handheld</a>. Our biggest issue with it was that it was bulky and heavy. With rumors swirling around about a Shield 2, we were hoping to see a slimmer, lighter design. So consider us initially disappointed when we learned that the next iteration of Shield would just be yet another Android tablet. Yawn, right? The fact of the matter is that the Shield Tablet may be playing in an oversaturated market, but it’s still great at what it sets out to be.</p> <p><iframe src="//" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We've updated our review to include the video review above.</strong></p> <p>At eight inches, the Shield Tablet features a gorgeous 1900x1200 display, which shares the same resolution as Google’s flagship <a title="nexus 7 review" href="" target="_blank">Nexus 7</a> tablet. At 13.1 ounces, the Shield Tablet is about three ounces heavier than the Nexus 7 but still a lot lighter than the original’s 1 lb. 4.7 ounces.&nbsp;</p> <p>Part of the weight increase with the Shield Tablet over the Nexus 7 is due to the extra inch that you’re getting from the screen, but also because the Shield Tablet is passively cooled and has an extra thermal shield built inside to dissipate heat. It’s a little heavier than we like, but isn’t likely to cause any wrist problems. On the back of the Shield is an anti-slip surface and a 5MP camera, and on the front of the tablet is a front-facing 5MP camera and two front-facing speakers. While the speakers are not going to blow away dedicated Bluetooth speakers, they sound excellent for a tablet. In addition to the speakers, the Shield Tablet has a 3.5mm headphone jack up at the top. Other ports include Micro USB, Mini HDMI out, and a MicroSD card slot capable of taking up to 128GB cards. Buttons on the Shield include a volume rocker and a power button, which we found to be a little small and shallow for our liking.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/shield_tablet_exploded_view_black_bckgr.jpg" alt="Nvidia Shield Tablet guts" title="Nvidia Shield Tablet guts" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The guts of the Nvidia Shield Tablet.</strong></p> <p>All of this is running on the latest version of Android KitKat (4.4). Nvidia says that it will update the tablet to Android L within a few weeks of Google’s official release. If Nvidia’s original Shield is any indication of how well the company keeps up with OS updates, you should be able to expect to get the latest version of Android after a couple of weeks, if not a months, after release. Regardless, the Shield Tablet is running a pretty stock version of Android to begin with, the main difference being that Nvidia has pre-loaded the tablet with its Shield Hub, which is a 10-foot UI used to purchase, download, and launch games.</p> <p>Arguably, the real star of the tablet is Nvidia’s new Tegra K1 mobile superchip. The 2.2GHz quad-core A15 SOC features Nvidia’s Kepler GPU architecture and 192 CUDA cores along with 2GB of low-power DDR3. K1 supports many of the graphical features commonplace in GeForce graphics cards, including tesselation, HDR lighting, Global illumination, subsurface scattering, and more.</p> <p>In our performance benchmarks, the K1 killed it. Up until now, the original Shield’s actively cooled Tegra 4 is arguably one of the most, if not <em>the</em> most, powerful Android SOC on the market, but the K1 slaughters it across the board. In Antutu and GeekBench benchmark, we saw modest gains of 12 percent to 23 percent in Shield vs. Shield Tablet action. But in Passmark and GFX Bench’s Trex test, we saw nearly a 50 percent spread, and in 3DMark’s mobile Icestorm Unlimited test, we saw an astounding 90 percent advantage for the Shield Tablet. This is incredible when you consider that the tablet has no fans and a two-watt TDP. Compared to the second-gen Nexus 7, the Shield Tablet benchmarks anywhere from 77 percent to 250 percent faster. This SOC is smoking fast.</p> <p>In terms of battery life, Nvidia claims you’ll get 10 hours watching/surfing the web and about five hours from gaming with its 19.75 Wh battery. This is up 3.75 Wh up from Google’s Nexus 7 equivalent, and from our experiential tests, we found those figures to be fairly accurate if not a best-case scenario. It will pretty much last you all day, but you'll still want to let it sip juice every night.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/shield_tablet_shield_controller_war_thunder.jpg" alt="Shield Tablet review" title="Shield Tablet review" width="620" height="343" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The new wireless controller uses Wi-Fi Direct instead of Bluetooth for lower latency.</strong></p> <p>Of course, if you’re going to game with it, you’re going to need Nvidia’s new wireless Shield Controller. Sold separately for $60, the 11.2-ounce Shield Controller maintains the same button layout as the original Shield controller, but feels a lot lighter and is more comfortable to hold. While most Android game controllers operate over Bluetooth, Nvidia opted to go with Wi-Fi Direct, stating that it offers 2x faster response time and more bandwidth. The extra bandwidth allows you to plug a 3.5mm headphone into the controller and also allows you to link up to four controllers to the device, which is an appreciated feature when you hook up the tablet to your HDTV via the Shield Tablet’s <a title="shield console mode" href="" target="_blank">Console Mode</a>. Other unique features of the controller include capacitive-touch buttons for Android’s home, back, and play buttons. There’s also a big green Nvidia button that launches Shield Hub. The controller also has a small, triangle-shaped clickable touch pad which allows you to navigate your tablet from afar. One quibble with it is that we wish the trackpad was more square, to at least mimic the dimensions of the tablet; the triangle shape was a little awkward to interface with. Another problem that we initially had with the controller was that the + volume button stopped working after a while. We contacted Nvidia about this and the company sent us a new unit, which remedied the issue. One noticeable feature missing from the controller is rumble support. Nvidia said this was omitted on the original Shield to keep the weight down; its omission is a little more glaring this time around, however, since there's no screen attached to the device.</p> <p>The controller isn’t the only accessory that you’ll need to purchase separately if you want to tap into the full Shield Tablet experience. To effectively game with the tablet, you’ll need the Shield Tablet cover, which also acts as a stand. Like most tablets, a magnet in the cover shuts off the Shield Tablet when closed, but otherwise setting up the cover and getting it to act as a stand is initially pretty confusing. The cover currently only comes in black, and while we’re generally not big on marketing aesthetics, it would be nice to have an Nvidia green option to give the whole look a little more pop. We actually think the cover should just be thrown in gratis, especially considering that the cheapest 16GB model costs $300. On the upside though, you do get Nvidia’s new passive DirectStylus 2 that stows away nicely in the body of the Shield Tablet. Nvidia has pre-installed note-writing software and its own Nvidia Dabbler painting program. The nice thing about Dabbler is that it leverages the K1’s GPU acceleration so that you can virtually paint and blend colors in real time. There’s also a realistic mode where the “paint” slowly drips down the virtual canvas like it would in real life.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/shield_tablet_shield_controller_trine2_0.jpg" alt="Shield tablet review" title="Shield tablet review" width="620" height="404" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Shield Controller is a lot lighter and less blocky than the original Shield Portable.</strong></p> <p>But that’s probably not why you’re interested in the Shield Tablet. This device is first and foremost a gaming tablet and even comes with a free Android copy of Trine 2. Trine 2 was originally a PC game and it’s made a great transition to the Shield Tablet. While the game was never known to be a polygon pusher, it looks just as good as it ever did on its x86 debut.&nbsp;</p> <p>With gaming as the primary driver for Shield Tablet, you may wonder why Nvidia didn’t bundle its new controller. The company likely learned from Microsoft’s mistake with Kinect and the Xbox One: Gamers don’t like to spend money and getting the price as low as possible was likely on Nvidia’s mind. Of course, not everyone may even want a controller, with the general lack of support for them in games. Nvidia says there are now around 400 Android titles that support its controller, but that’s only a small percentage of Android games and the straight truth is that the overwhelming majority of these games are garbage.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nvidia is making a push for Android gaming, however. The company worked with Valve to port over Half Life 2 and Portal to the Shield and they look surprisingly fantastic and are easily the two prettiest games on Android at the moment. Whether Android will ever become a legitimate platform for hardcore gaming is anyone’s guess, but at least the Shield Tablet will net you a great front seat if the time ever arises.</p> <p>Luckily, you won’t have to rely solely on the Google Play store to get your gaming fix. Emulators run just as well here as they did on the original Shield and this iteration of Shield is also compatible with Gamestream, which is Nvidia’s streaming technology that allows you to stream games from your PC to your Shield. Gamestream, in theory, lets you play your controller-enabled PC games on a Shield.</p> <p>At this point, Nvidia says Gamestream supports more than 100 games such as Batman: Arkham Origins and Titanfall from EA’s Origin and Valve’s Steam service. The problem, though, is that there are hundreds more games on Steam and Origin that support controllers—but not the Shield Tablet’s controller. For example, Final Fantasy VII, a game that we couldn’t get to work with the original Shield, still isn't supported even though it works with an Xbox controller on the PC. When Gamestream does work, however, it’s relatively lag-free and kind of wonderful. The one caveat here is that you’ll have to get a 5GHz dual-band router to effectively get it working.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Nvidia Shield Video demo.</strong></p> <p>Would we buy the Shield Tablet if we owned the original Shield (now renamed the Shield Portable)? Probably not. If we were looking for a new tablet and top-notch gaming performance was on the checklist, the Shield Tablet is easily the top contender today. We’d take it over the second-gen Nexus 7 in a heartbeat. While we understand why Nvidia decided to separate the cover and controller to keep the prices down and avoid the Kinect factor, we think a bundled package with a small price break as an alternative would have been nice. All things considered though, consider us surprised. The Shield Tablet is pretty dang cool.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>$300</strong></p> <p><em><strong>Update:</strong> The original article incorrectly labled the Shield Portable benchmarks with the Nexus 7 figures. The issue has been resolved and both benchmark charts are listed below.&nbsp;</em></p> android Google Hardware KitKat maximum pc nvidia portable Review shield tablet wireless controller News Reviews Tablets Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:36:57 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28263 at Xidax M6 Mining Rig Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A gaming rig that pays for itself</h3> <p>Exotic car paint, multiple GPUs, and custom-built chassis’ be damned, boutique PC builder <a title="xidax" href="" target="_blank">Xidax</a> thinks it has the sexiest sales pitch on the planet with its <strong>M6 Mining Rig</strong>: It pays for itself! Now, we can’t say this PC is basically “free” because it ain’t that, but Xidax says by using the box’s spare GPU cycles to mine for crypto-currency, this baby would be paid off in about four months. To be honest, it’s not something we’ve ever considered, as we’ve seen gaming rigs, and we’ve seen coining rigs, but never in the same box. It seems like a solid idea though, as the system can game during the day, then mine at night to help cover its cost.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/xidax_guts13979_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/xidax_guts13979_small.jpg" alt="The Xidax M6 Mining Rig comes set up with everything you need to start mining crypto-currancy almost right out of the box." title="Xidax M6 Mining Rig" width="620" height="676" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Xidax M6 Mining Rig comes set up with everything you need to start mining crypto-currancy almost right out of the box.</strong></p> <p>The system’s specs include a 3.4GHz Core i5-4670K with 16GB of RAM, a Corsair RM 850 PSU, closed-loop liquid cooler, 250GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD, 1TB WD Black, and a pair of Sapphire Radeon R9 290X cards. In application performance, it’s pretty pedestrian with its stock-clocked Core i5-4670K. Why not something more badass? Xidax says it weighed hardware choices carefully because the pricier the hardware, the longer it takes to pay off with crypto-coins. The Radeons are a wise choice, as they offer about twice the performance of Nvidia’s fastest GPUs in mining applications. Gaming is also quite excellent (obviously, for a two-card system), and its mining performance is impressive at 1.7 to 1.8 Kilohashes per second. (Hashes of the kilo/mega/giga variety are the units of measurement for mining productivity.)</p> <p>Xidax ships the PC ready to start mining operations almost right out of the box, which is normally a daunting task. It also includes a Concierge (or should we say coincierge) service that has a Xidax rep remotely connect to the rig and do a final tune on the box for maximum mining performance. On this particular machine, it came ready to mine for Doge Coins and was forecast to make about $21.60 a day, or $670 a month, on a 24/7 schedule—including electricity costs.</p> <p>What’s the catch? There are a few. First, it’s loud when mining. In fact, it’s so loud that you won’t be able to stand being in the same room with it. Second, you can’t do anything with it while it’s mining because all GPU resources are pegged to the max. Third, crypto-currency can be volatile. Bitcoin saw its value see-saw from $130 to $1,242 and then back to $455 and $900 in just four months. It could all go kaput in a few months, or who knows—the government might even step in and ruin the fun.</p> <p>Considering its performance outside of mining, the M6 Mining Rig is pricey at $3,000. However, the price includes a lifetime warranty on parts and service except for the GPUs. Those carry a five-year warranty, which is still surprisingly good, considering that board vendors are already making noises that they don’t want to eat the cost of dead boards killed by mining. Xidax says it will cover them, though. And—again—it pays for itself, right?</p> <p>That’s ultimately the appeal of the M6 Gaming Rig, but it has to be carefully considered by potential buyers. After all, anything that sounds too good to be true usually is, but then again, it is a powerful gaming PC that could theoretically pay for itself in a few months. And even if the market blew up, at least you’d still have a formidable gaming PC rather than just standing there with your RAM sticks in one hand. And if it works out, whoa baby, you just got a PC for free! –</p> <p><strong>$3,000,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/xidax_benchmarks.png" alt="xidax benchmarks" title="xidax benchmarks" width="620" height="277" /></p> april issues 2014 bitcoin dogecoin Hardware maximum pc Review xidax m6 mining computer Reviews Systems Wed, 06 Aug 2014 16:42:51 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28234 at Gigabyte Radeon R9 290X OC Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>As good as it gets, if you can find one to buy</h3> <p>Aftermarket Radeon R9 290X GPUs are beginning to make the rounds, and this month we had a WindForce-cooled behemoth from <a title="gigabyte" href="" target="_blank">Gigabyte</a> strutting its stuff in the lab. Unlike last month’s <a title="sapphire tri x r9 290x" href="" target="_blank">Sapphire Tri-X R9 290X</a>, this board features a custom PCB in addition to the custom cooler, whereas the Sapphire slapped a huge cooler onto the reference design circuit board. Theoretically, this could allow for higher overclocks on the Gigabyte due to better-quality components, but more on that later.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/windforce14052_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/windforce14052_small.jpg" alt="Unlike the reference design, Gigabyte’s R9 290X is cool, quiet, and overclockable." title="Gigabyte Radeon R9 290X OC" width="620" height="476" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Unlike the reference design, Gigabyte’s R9 290X is cool, quiet, and overclockable.</strong></p> <p>This is the overclocked version of the card, so it clocks up to 1,040MHz under load, which is a mere 40MHz over stock. These boards always have conservative overclocks out of the box, though, and that is by no means the final clock speed for this card. We’ve covered its WindForce cooler in past reviews, so we won’t go into all the details, but it’s a three-fan cooler that only takes up two PCIe slots and uses six heat pipes with inclined heatsinks to better dissipate the warm. It’s good for 450W of heat dispersal, according to Gigabyte, and since the R9 290X is roughly a 300W card (AMD has never given a TDP for this particular model for some reason), the WindForce cooler should be more than up to the job.</p> <p>Like all Radeon R9 290X boards, this sucker is big and long, measuring 11.5 inches. Gigabyte recommends you use at least a 600W power supply with it, and it sports two dual-link DVI ports for 2560x1600 gaming, as well as HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2a if you want to run 4K. The card comes bundled with a free set of headphones. It used to include a free copy of Battlefield 4, but the company told us it was no longer offering the game bundle because it had run out of coupons. The MSRP of the board is $620, but some stores had it for $599 while others marked it up to $700.</p> <p>Once we had this Windy Bad Boy in the lab, we were very curious to compare it to the Sapphire Tri-X R9 290X we tested last month. Since both cards feature enormous aftermarket coolers, have the exact same specs and clocks, and are roughly the same price, we weren’t surprised to find that they performed identically for the most part.</p> <p>If you look at the benchmark chart, in every test the two cards are almost exactly the same—the only exception being Metro, but since that’s a PhysX game, AMD cards can get a bit wonky sometimes. In every other test, the two cards are within a few frames-per-second difference, making them interchangeable. Both cards also run in the mid–70 C zone under load, which is 20 C cooler than the reference design. We were able to overclock both cards to just a smidge over 1,100MHz, as well.</p> <p>“Okay,” you are saying to yourself. “I’m ready to buy!” Well, that’s where we run into a small problem. Gigabyte’s MSRP for this card is $620—the same as the Sapphire Tri-X card—but at press time, the cheapest we could find it for was $700 on Newegg. We can’t ding Gigabyte for Newegg’s pricing, but it’s a real shame these R9 290X cards are so damned expensive.</p> <p><strong>$620,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> Air Cooling amd april issues 2014 Gigabyte Radeon R9 290X OC gpu graphics card Hardware maximum pc Review Reviews Tue, 05 Aug 2014 19:52:42 +0000 Josh Norem 28227 at NZXT H440 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Remarkably clean, and limited, too</h3> <p>We love the fact that <a title="nzxt" href="" target="_blank">NZXT</a> bills this semi-silent-themed case as a “hassle-free experience.” We wonder if the company was using the same case that we were, because we encountered quite a bit of hassle building a standard configuration into this smaller-than-usual chassis.</p> <p>For starters, the case itself ships with no printed manual—at least, ours didn’t. We only hope that’s an oversight with our early review unit instead of a standard feature of the chassis itself, because there are definitely some features of the <a title="h440" href="" target="_blank">H440</a> that warrant a bit of instruction, especially for neophyte builders.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/h440_blk_main_24x32in_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/h440_blk_main_24x32in_small.jpg" alt="The H440 is the first case we’ve tested that doesn’t have 5.25-inch drive bays. " title="NZXT H440" width="620" height="578" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The H440 is the first case we’ve tested that doesn’t have 5.25-inch drive bays. </strong></p> <p>Case in point: There are absolutely zero 5.25-inch bays to be found on the H440, which is a good thing to know before you start attempting to pry off the H440’s front (Dremel in hand). We know, we know, the optical drive is dead, long live the optical drive—but is it too soon? To be honest, there’s an upstart contingent here at Maximum PC who think it’s a plus, while some cranky old farts think it’s a minus. Additionally, installing the power supply might evoke a bout of head-scratching at first, as there’s seemingly no way to just stuff it into the chassis thanks to how it’s been compartmentalized on the case’s bottom. This does build on the case’s motto of “remarkably clean,” though, by hiding your messy PSU cabling.</p> <p>This leads us into one of our major gripes with this chassis: There’s a lot of screwing. We pretty much pulled out the thumbscrews in the case’s side, which are supposedly designed to not do that. Beyond that, you have to unscrew a panel to slide the power supply in, you have to unscrew the standard PCI slot covers for any devices you want to install, and—most frustratingly—you have to first unscrew the case’s steel drive trays (up to six total) just for the privilege of being able to screw in your hard drive. Clean, yes. Toolless, no.</p> <p>The case feels a bit small on the inside, but it adequately supported our standard test setup (including an Nvidia GTX 480 video card) without any cramming or wedging. We like how the case’s three rubberized cable-routing holes fit perfectly with a standard video card setup—when using the top-most PCI Express x16 slot on our ATX motherboard, our video card didn’t block any of the much-needed routing holes.</p> <p>That said, cable routing is a bit of a challenge in the H440. There’s already not that much room between the rear of the motherboard tray and the case’s side panel. Amplifying the claustrophobia is a layer of soundproofing foam adhered to the side panel. We love that NZXT cares so much about our ears, but it makes for a less-than-pleasant smashing of cables against the case’s side (especially since there’s only one provided hole for power-supply cables to route through otherwise). Cable-management options feel more constrained by this case than others we’ve tested.</p> <p>The foam surrounding the case’s insides has quite a bit of work in store for it, too. No fewer than four of NZXT’s next-gen case fans grace the inside of the chassis: three 12cm fans on the front and one 14cm fan on the back. When we fired up the system with no components inside it, the soundproof-themed case was a bit audible. A full system only adds to the din, and while we appreciate NZXT’s efforts toward keeping the volume dial at a three instead of an eleven, it seems to be a bit of a lost cause.</p> <p>NZXT seems to think this case is perfect for liquid cooling. For some all-in-one setups, sure; for customized loops, you’re going to be in for something of a tubing nightmare. Best of luck!</p> <p><strong>$120,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> april issues 2014 Hardware maximum pc Review Cases Reviews Tue, 05 Aug 2014 19:46:55 +0000 David Murphy 28236 at Seagate 1TB Hybrid vs. WD Black2 Dual Drive <!--paging_filter--><h3>Seagate 1TB Hybrid vs. WD Black2 Dual Drive</h3> <p>Every mobile user who is limited to just one storage bay wants the best of both worlds: SSD speeds with HDD capacities. Both Seagate and WD have a one-drive solution to this problem, with Seagate offering a hybrid 1TB hard drive with an SSD cache for SSD-esque performance, and WD offering a no-compromise 2.5-inch drive with both an SSD and an HDD. These drives are arch rivals, so it’s time to settle the score.</p> <h4>ROUND 1: Specs and Package</h4> <p>The WD Black2 Dual Drive is two separate drives, with a 120GB SSD riding shotgun alongside a two-platter 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive. Both drives share a single SATA 6Gb/s interface and split the bandwidth of the channel between them, with the SSD rated to deliver 350MB/s read speeds and 140MB/s write speeds. The drive comes with a SATA-to-USB adapter and includes a five-year warranty. The Seagate SSHD uses a simpler design and features a 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive with an 8GB sliver of NAND flash attached to it, along with software that helps move frequently accessed data from the platters to the NAND memory for faster retrieval. It includes a three-year warranty and is otherwise a somewhat typical drive aimed at the consumer market, not hardcore speed freaks. Both drives include free cloning software, but since the WD includes two physical drives, a USB adapter, and a longer warranty, it gets the nod.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wd_endeavor_quarter_left_higres_smal_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wd_endeavor_quarter_left_higres_smal.jpg" alt="WD’s Black2 Dual Drive is two individual drives in one enclosure, and it has the price tag to prove it. " title="WD Black2" width="620" height="620" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>WD’s Black2 Dual Drive is two individual drives in one enclosure, and it has the price tag to prove it. </strong></p> <p><strong>Winner: WD Black2</strong></p> <h4>ROUND 2: Durability</h4> <p>This category is somewhat of a toss-up, as the WD Black2’s overall reliability is degraded somewhat by the fact that it has a spinning volume attached to it, giving it the same robustness of the Seagate SSHD. There’s also the issue of the WD Black using the slightly antiquated JMicron controller. We don’t have any reliability data on that controller in particular, but we are always more concerned about the SSD controller you-know-whating the bed than the memory, which is rated to last for decades, even under heavy write scenarios. Both drives also use two-platter designs, so neither one is more or less prone to damage than the other. In the end, we’ll have to go with the Seagate SSHD as being more durable, simply because you only have to worry about one drive working instead of two.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Winner: Seagate SSHD</strong></p> <h4>ROUND 3: Performance</h4> <p>Seagate is very clear about the performance of its hybrid drives, stating that they “boot and perform like an SSD,” but it never says they’re faster. It also claims the drive is “up to five times faster than a hard drive,” which seems like a bit of a stretch. It’s difficult to actually benchmark a caching drive because it won’t show on standard sequential read tests, and it gets killed by SSDs in access time tests. That said, we did see boot and PCMark Vantage scores improve significantly over time. Our boot time dropped by more than half, going from 2:27 to 1:07 after several boots, and our PCMark Vantage score shot up from 6,000 to 19,000. Still, these times are much slower than what we got with the WD SSD, which booted in 45 seconds (the system had three dozen programs installed), and hit 33,000 in PCMark Vantage.</p> <p><strong>Winner: WD Black2</strong></p> <h4>ROUND 4: Cloning Package</h4> <p>Both drives include free software to help you clone your old drive and, in an odd twist, both companies use Acronis software to get ’er done. Seagate’s software is called DiscWizard, and works on OSes as old as Windows 98 and Mac OS 10.x. WD throws in a copy of Acronis True Image, though it only works with WD drives attached via the included USB-to-SATA adapter. We tested both software packages and found them to be nearly identical, as both let us clone our existing drive and boot from it after one pass, which can be tricky at times. Therefore, we call the software package a tie since they both perform well and use Acronis. However, WD’s $300 bundle includes a USB-to-SATA adapter that makes the cloning process totally painless. Seagate makes you forage for a cable on your own, which tips the scales in WD’s favor.</p> <p><strong>Winner: WD Black2</strong></p> <h4>ROUND 5: Ease of Use</h4> <p>This round has a crystal-clear winner, and that’s the Seagate SSHD. That’s because the Seagate drive is dead-simple to use and behaves exactly like a hard drive at all times. You can plug it into any PC, Mac, or Linux machine and it is recognized with no hassle. The WD drive, on the other hand, only works on Windows PCs because it requires special software to “unlock” the 1TB hard drive partition. For us, that’s obviously not a problem, but we know it’s enraged some Linux aficionados. Also, the WD drive only has a 120GB SSD. So, if you are moving to it from an HDD, you will likely have to reinstall your OS and programs, then move all your data to the HDD portion of the drive. The Seagate drive is big enough that you would just need to clone your old drive to it.</p> <p><strong>Winner: Seagate SSHD</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/laptop-sshd-1tb-dynamic-with-label-hi-res-5x7_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/laptop-sshd-1tb-dynamic-with-label-hi-res-5x7_small.jpg" alt="Seagate’s hybrid drive offers HDD simplicity and capacity, along with SSD-like speed for frequently requested data. " title="Seagate SSHD" width="620" height="639" /><br /></a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Seagate’s hybrid drive offers HDD simplicity and capacity, along with SSD-like speed for frequently requested data. </strong></p> <h3 style="text-align: left;">And the Winner Is…</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">This verdict is actually quite simple. If you’re a mainstream user, the Seagate SSHD is clearly the superior option, as it is fast enough, has more than enough capacity for most notebook tasks, and costs about one-third of the WD Black2. But this is Maximum PC, so we don’t mind paying more for a superior product, and that’s the <strong>WD Black2 Dual Drive</strong>. It delivers both speed and capacity and is a better high-performance package, plain and simple.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This article originally appeared in the April 2014 issue of the magazine.</span></p> Hard Drive Hardware HDD Review Seagate 1TB Hybrid ssd WD Black2 Backup Drives Hard Drives Reviews SSD Features Thu, 31 Jul 2014 19:27:45 +0000 Josh Norem 28103 at MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>No surprises here, just a solid 1080p card</h3> <p><a title="msi" href="" target="_blank">MSI</a> is offering two flavors of its midrange Radeon R9 270 GPU, formerly known as the <a title="7870 GHz" href="" target="_blank">Radeon HD 7870 GHz edition</a>. There is a standard model and one with an “X” after its name. The difference between the two is the X model has slightly higher core and boost clocks, but otherwise the two cards are the same and are both based on AMD’s Pitcairn GCN core, which is a 28nm part that debuted in 2013.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/r9_270x_gaming_2gd5v303_3d1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/r9_270x_gaming_2gd5v303_3d1_small.jpg" alt="Don’t bother with the R9 270X—the non-X version shown here is just fine. " title="MSI Radeon R9 270 Gaming OC" width="620" height="487" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Don’t bother with the R9 270X—the non-X version shown here is just fine. </strong></p> <p>The card in front of you is the MSI R9 270 Gaming model, which is a stock R9 270 with a mild overclock, hence the word “Gaming” in its moniker. It has an MSRP of $180, while the X version is roughly $20 more, though street prices are higher due to the mining craze and short supply. For those who are prone to guffawing at a card that is merely rebadged and price-dropped, this is par for the course and actually good news for gamers. That’s because both Nvidia and AMD refine their manufacturing processes over time, so by the time a GPU gets a rebadge, it’s often able to run at higher clocks with better efficiency for a much lower price. The bottom line is that this card once had a $350 price tag and now costs less than $200, so there’s very little to complain about.</p> <p>To rehash the specs, this is a card with a base clock of 900MHz and a boost clock of 975MHz, which is 50MHz higher than the reference board. It has 2GB of GDDR5 memory that runs at 5.6GHz, and 1,280 stream processors. Since this is not new silicon, the card does not offer support for TrueAudio, but as it’s a Graphics Core Next (GCN) card, it does support AMD’s new Mantle API (at press time, BF4 was not optimized for Mantle with the R9 270, but AMD said it’s “being investigated”). As a midrange GPU, the R9 270 has a low-ish TDP of 150w, and therefore requires only a single six-pin PCIe connector for power—an advantage over the 270X, which requires two six-pin connectors. Interestingly, the R9 270 doesn’t have a direct competitor from Nvidia since it costs just a bit over $200, so it sits right in between the $250 GTX 760 and the $150 GTX 650 Ti (the Ti Boost is out of stock everywhere, but costs around $175). The GTX 660 is about the same price, but that card is ancient, so we compared it to the more-expensive GTX 760.</p> <p>Overall, we had a pleasant testing experience with the MSI R9 270 card. It was quiet and cool—never getting hotter than <br />60 C—and was totally stable. It ran the grueling new Star Swarm demo over a weekend with nary a hiccup, and we were also able to overclock it to 1,140MHz boost clock, which netted a 10 percent bump in performance. Basically, we found its performance exactly in line with its price, in that it was a bit slower than the more-expensive GTX 760 in all the games we test aside from Tomb Raider, which is an AMD game.</p> <p>In the end, there’s nothing wrong with the MSI R9 270 Gaming OC and we have no problem recommending it. However, we’d still go with the GTX 760 just because it is quite a bit faster in many games, and only costs $30 more. If Mantle support is important to you, though, feel free to pull the trigger.</p> <p><strong>$220 (street),</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the April 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href=";cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> april issues 2014 graphics card Hardware maximum pc msi radeon r9 270 oc Review videocard Reviews Videocards Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:39:42 +0000 Josh Norem 28096 at D-Link DGL-5500 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A router built specifically for gamers</h3> <p>When it comes to PC parts and accessories, all roads eventually lead to gamers. Intel and AMD both sell unlocked processors so gamers can more easily overclock their rigs for a few extra frames per second; pro gamer Johnathan “Fatal1ty” Wendel has endorsed everything from motherboards to power supplies; there’s gaming RAM; and of course, a whole assortment of accessories designed to give you an edge when smoking your friends on the virtual battlefield. Up until now, one of the few items missing from the list was an 802.11ac wireless router.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dgl-5500_front_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dgl-5500_front_small.jpg" alt="The new Mac Pro stole its design from this router—true story. " title="D-Link DGL-5500" width="583" height="1200" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The new Mac Pro stole its design from this router—true story. </strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dgl-5500_back_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dgl-5500_back_small.jpg" title="D-Link DGL-5500" width="584" height="1200" /></a></p> <p>D-Link gets credit for tying up that loose end with the DGL-5500, a dual-band AC1300 wireless router built specifically for gamers. What makes the DGL-5500 different from all the other 802.11ac models, including D-Link’s own DIR-868L (reviewed in our February issue), is the inclusion of Qualcomm’s StreamBoost technology.</p> <p>Whereas the majority of modern routers rely on simple quality of service (QoS) rules to prioritize network packets, StreamBoost examines what applications are running and how much actual bandwidth each one needs. It also manages latency because a laggy gamer is a dead gamer. The question is, does it work as advertised?</p> <p>For the most part, StreamBoost lives up to the hype. We consistently saw lower pings in online games when connected to the DGL-5500 versus our zero-point router, the Asus RT-AC66U. External factors beyond our control also affect ping, so it’s hard to offer an apples-to-apples comparison, but to give one example, our ping averaged around 42ms in Battlefield 4 when using Asus’s router. When switching to D-Link’s model and turning on StreamBoost, our pings hovered around 19ms. After firing up Netflix on a second PC and initiating file downloads on two other systems, the ping stayed around 22–24ms—that’s impressive.</p> <p>In our evaluation of D-Link’s DIR-868L, we said the fugly web-based interface could use a major overhaul, and that’s what we got with the DGL-5500. It’s much better looking than before and far less complicated to navigate, though it’s also painfully slow when switching between menus. The UI is also heavily biased toward StreamBoost—if you disable the feature, you lose access to the My Network map, which provides a graphical view of all active devices and how much bandwidth each one is consuming.</p> <p>The DGL-5500 outpaced our zero point router in 802.11n mode on the 2.4GHz band in our three indoor tests. It also did better at picking out uncluttered channels on its own—we use inSSIDer ($20, to identify the best channel(s) for testing. However, the RT-AC66U boasts better range and faster transfers in 802.11ac mode on the 5GHz band. It’s worth pointing out the DGL-5500 lacks beamforming, which concentrates the wireless signal at connected devices for longer range and better speeds.</p> <p>There are other shortcomings, as well—you can’t configure Guest networks, the single USB 2.0 port doesn’t support printer sharing, and the combined speed of both channels is capped at AC1300 rather than AC1750 as it is with D-Link’s DIR-868L. While StreamBoost is a step forward, the router is a step backward in other areas. Note to D-Link: Gamers care about this stuff, too.</p> <p><strong>$140 [street],</strong> <a href=""></a></p> ac wireless april issues 2014 Gaming Hardware hd media router 2000 Review Reviews Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:22:18 +0000 Paul Lilly 28097 at Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A real gem of a GPU</h3> <p>For those who haven’t kept up with current events: Late last year AMD launched its all-new Hawaii GPUs, starting with its flagship Radeon R9 290X that featured a blower-type cooler designed by AMD. In testing, it ran hotter than any GPU we’ve ever tested, hitting 94 C at full load, which is about 20 C higher than normal. AMD assured everyone this was no problemo, and that the board was designed to run those temps until the meerkats came home. It was stable at 94 C, but the GPU throttled performance at those temps. The stock fan was also a bit loud at max revs, so though the card offered kick-ass performance, it was clearly being held back by the reference cooler.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/sapphire_13650_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/sapphire_13650_small.jpg" alt="The Tri-X throws off AMD’s meh cooler." title="Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Tri-X throws off AMD’s meh cooler.</strong></p> <p>Therefore, we all eagerly awaited the arrival of cards with aftermarket coolers, and this month we received the first aftermarket Radeon R9 290X—the massive triple-fan Tri-X model from Sapphire; and we must say, all of our Radeon prayers have been answered by this card.</p> <p>Not only does it run totally cool and quiet at all times, but because it runs so chilly it has plenty of room to overclock, making it a card that addresses every single one of our complaints about the reference design from AMD. There is one caveat: price. The Sapphire card is $50 more expensive than the reference card at $600, but you are obviously getting quite a bit of additional horsepower for your ducats.</p> <p>When we first fired it up, we were amazed to see it hit 1,040MHz under load, and stay there throughout testing. Even more surprising were the temps we were seeing. Since the reference card hits 94 C all day long, this is obviously a really hot GPU, but the Sapphire Tri-X cooler was holding it down at a chilly 75 C. The card was whisper-quiet too, which was also a pleasant surprise given the noise level of the reference cooler. We were also able to overclock it to 1,113MHz, which is a turnaround in that we could not overclock the reference board at all since it throttles at stock settings.</p> <p><strong>$600,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the March 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href=";cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> Air Cooling amd gpu graphics card Hardware March issues 2014 maximun pc Review Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:09:13 +0000 Josh Norem 28024 at Toshiba Qosmio X75 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Lots of graphical horsepower at a reasonable price</h3> <p>It’s been a while since we reviewed a Toshiba gaming notebook, so we couldn’t wait to get our hands on the company’s new Qosmio X75. Unlike iBuypower’s super-slim and portable 17-inch Battalion M1771 gaming notebook we reviewed last issue, the Qosmio X75 puts power ahead of portability.</p> <p>With a body measuring 16.5x10.7x1.7 inches and weighing more than seven pounds, the X75 is definitely in desktop-replacement territory. The chassis is clad in black textured aluminum, with lots of red accenting, such as the shiny red trim around the body and the trackpad, the red LED keyboard backlighting, and the glowing red Qosmio logo on the lid. It all serves to add a bit of flash to an otherwise subtle aesthetic.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u152332/toshiba_laptop13691_small.jpg" alt="Go with 8GB of RAM and forego the Blu-ray drive to save $300." title="Toshiba Qosmio X75" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Go with 8GB of RAM and forego the Blu-ray drive to save $300.</strong></p> <p>A couple aspects we don’t like are the 4-pin power connector, which necessitates precise orientation of the plug. We’re also not crazy about the exhaust fan’s location on the right edge, which could mean warm wrists for right-handers during heavy play sessions. While it never got uncomfortably hot, we would have preferred a rear exhaust.</p> <p>On the bright side, the Qosmio’s display is one of the best TN panels we’ve seen, with fantastic viewing angles and a vibrant 1080p glossy display, which didn’t suffer from the usual glare problem. We also had no qualms with the laptop’s quad Harman/Kardon speakers, which sounded clear and powerful. As a matter of fact, we can confidently say that these are some of the best laptop speakers we’ve heard.</p> <p>The trackpad is similarly praise-worthy. While we normally harp on trackpads that don’t feature two dedicated buttons, the Qosmio’s uniform expanse is easy to use, with horizontal grooves above the left and right mouse clickers providing a suitable substitute for separate buttons. In addition, the trackpad is ample at 4.5x3.2 inches, highly responsive, and supports multitouch gestures. The keyboard is also equally competent, although we do wish the arrow keys were full-size as opposed to half-size.</p> <p>Inside the chassis, the Qosmio sports a quad-core 2.4GHz 4700MQ CPU, a GeForce GTX 770M, and 16GB of memory. For storage, it has a 256GB mSATA SSD coupled with a 1TB hard drive. The laptop has a 47Wh 8-cell battery.</p> <p>When it was time to perform, Toshiba’s laptop killed it in the gaming department, but was average everywhere else. We had never reviewed a gaming laptop with a 770M before, and found that it had no issues kicking the crap out of the more mobile-oriented 765M GPU in our Alienware 14 zero-point rig, thanks in no small part to its 3GB of GDDR5 memory. We’re talking performance advantages of 17–66 percent in the gaming tests. The Qosmio couldn’t quite keep up with our zero-point in our CPU-intensive benchmarks, however, losing by roughly 3–8 percent. While those aren’t huge losses, it’s still a little disappointing given that both laptops use the same Intel processor. We suspect that Toshiba is throttling the CPU to avoid thermal issues. Thankfully, the laptop never got hot, so we didn’t hear much fan noise.</p> <p>The laptop’s biggest failing actually came by way of battery life, which isn’t a big surprise from a machine of this size. In our video rundown test, the Qosmio lasted two hours and 20 minutes. If you’re interested in getting a laptop this large, you’re most likely going to use it as a desktop replacement, thus battery life isn’t really an issue. And while its CPU performance is a little disappointing, the Qosmio X75 offers a lot of performance as a gaming laptop for a very fair price. While our build cost $1,800, foregoing a Blu-ray drive and reducing the memory to 8GB of RAM (which is more than enough for gaming) could save $275, bringing the total to a little over $1,500. When you also consider the fact that you can easily pop open the bottom of the laptop for swapping out RAM and storage (without voiding the warranty), the Qosmio X75 turns out to be a great deal for enthusiasts, particularly gamers.</p> <p><strong>$1,800,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the March 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href=";cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> Business Notebooks Hardware March issues 2014 maximum pc Review Toshiba Qosmio X75 Reviews Notebooks Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:04:19 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28010 at Dream Machine Case Redux <!--paging_filter--><h3>Spin-offs of old case favorites square off</h3> <p>Ah, Cooler Master and Corsair. We know you well, especially since the cases we’re checking out here are derivatives of cases that have previously been featured in Maximum PC’s annual opus, the fabled Dream Machine.</p> <p>Here’s a spoiler, though: We’re not likely to pick either one for next year’s big build. We’re pretty impressed with Corsair’s offering, but a few quirks in design keep this strong case from achieving a better score. As for Cooler Master, it’s time to take the Cosmos SE back to the drawing board, unless you fancy a game of “Honey, I Shrunk My Components.”</p> <h4>Cooler Master Cosmos SE</h4> <p>Maybe we’re spoiled, but the phrase “full-tower chassis” tends to evoke a certain image in our minds—a sense of space, in particular. We hear “full-tower” and we think beaucoup room: tons of empty mounts for hard drives and 5.25-inch devices, lots of room in which to work and move around (and string cables throughout), as well as a super-easy installation for parts and pieces—one that doesn’t feel like you’re trying to wedge a very expensive square into a round hole.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/cosmos_se_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/cosmos_se_small.jpg" alt="Get out the grease; you might have a bit of work ahead of you if you're trying to stuff big parts inside Cooler Master's cramped chassis." title="Cooler Master Cosmos SE" width="620" height="858" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Get out the grease; you might have a bit of work ahead of you if you're trying to stuff big parts inside Cooler Master's cramped chassis.</strong></p> <p>Perhaps Cooler Master should have reconsidered calling its Cosmos SE chassis a full-tower, because to us, the description seems a bit stretched. Sure, there’s plenty of room for storage. The case supports no fewer than eight 3.5-inch hard drives or a whopping 18 2.5-inch drives (assuming you’re slapping two SSDs into each of the case’s eight total drive bays). Six of these drive bays can be removed en masse if you want to stash a radiator in place or, annoyingly, if you need a bit more room for your graphics card.</p> <p>That allows us to segue into our primary criticism of the chassis: It’s cramped. To the company’s credit, Cooler Master does specifically call out the exact measurement of graphics cards that the case supports on its website. However, it does so using the measurement taken if the aforementioned drive bays are removed (15.5 inches in length, if you’re curious). When the bays aren’t removed—and frankly, we wish we didn’t have to remove them, as they’re both more useful and aesthetically pleasing than a large, gaping hole—you only get 10.9 inches of clearance for GPUs.</p> <p>To put that in real-world terms, it felt as if we were on the verge of damaging our 10.5-inch Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 video card when wedging it—literally—into the case. We eventually got it in, but it left absolutely no room between the edge of the card and the hard drive bays. You’re then totally reliant on the cable-routing holes cut into the tray itself to power up your card, which isn’t saying much.</p> <p>Adding to the space concerns of this already-tight chassis is the fact that installing a common ATX motherboard (using provided standoffs; they aren’t preinstalled) blocks a portion of two of the case’s primary, rubberized cable-routing holes—and, of course, they’re the ones closest to the video card you’ve just hammered into the case. The case’s top-mounted 14cm fan covers half of a routing hole on the top of the motherboard tray, as well.</p> <p>If you have anything beyond a standard PC setup, you’re going to have quite a bit of hassle getting your cable management to work correctly in this case; we sure did. The case does come with two large holes near the power supply, but you sacrifice case aesthetics when you have to route cables right overtop your parts—at least, we didn’t like the picture we were seeing through the case’s large side-panel window when doing this workaround.</p> <p>Cooler Master packs plenty of preinstalled cooling into the Cosmos SE. We wish we had a built-in fan controller to reduce the din (and keep us from having to string a ton of Molex connectors together). It doesn’t, however, pack in locking mechanisms for your 5.25-inch devices; you have to screw those in manually (hello, five years ago). Two USB 3.0 connections join two USB 2.0 connections on the front, in addition to a button that manually controls the case’s blue LED lighting (from the fans).</p> <p>But really, that’s just dressing up a pig at this point. We’d recommend the Cosmos SE only to those who like meticulously measuring out all their parts and pieces before doing a build. The other 99 percent of you would do well with a chassis that works for you, not against you.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Cooler Master Cosmos SE<br /></strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:5" title="score:5" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$170 (street), <a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <h4>Corsair 750D</h4> <p>Militaristic in its precision, Corsair’s 750D chassis is all about business, not adornments. You won’t find any fancy lighting on this case, nor an inordinate array of preinstalled, pretty cooling for a case of this size. What you do get is a ton of space to work with: plenty of room for cable management, video cards of all sizes, liquid-cooling support for a triple-fan radiator (3x 12cm), and then some. While the case offers plenty to begin with, you could theoretically add even three more drive bays to the interior without it feeling cramped in the slightest.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/750d_hero_up300_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/750d_hero_up300_small.jpg" alt="We almost wish Corsair's case came with an additional drive bay for SSDs; the trays on the case's rear don't quite fit." title="Corsair 750D" width="620" height="928" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We almost wish Corsair's case came with an additional drive bay for SSDs; the trays on the case's rear don't quite fit.</strong></p> <p>As you might expect, the 750D fits just about any motherboard you throw its way. The simple ATX mobo we use for our testing felt a bit like Jack in the land of the giants; screwing it into the preinstalled standoffs was easy, and we loved that it was surrounded by a total of eight holes for cable routing (five rubberized, three cut into the top-side of the elevated motherboard tray). While you might lose one or two of these holes if your power supply is larger than five inches long, that still leaves a considerable amount of room to play with.</p> <p>If you’re rocking an extended power supply, Corsair makes it fairly easy to remove the three-bay drive cage that stands in your path and relocate it above the similarly sized drive cage on the case’s bottom-right. We were a little surprised that this wasn’t the 750D’s default configuration, as it feels like one has an unnecessary surfeit of room around the graphics card area on the motherboard when both drive cages adorn the case’s bottom.</p> <p>That said, the default arrangement does allow for a good amount of uninhibited cooling to churn from the case’s two front 14cm fans. A single 14cm fan gives a bit of exhaust on the case’s rear; given the 750D’s size, however, we’d prefer a larger 20cm variant on the case’s top, which could help boost cooling while simultaneously cutting out a bit of noise in the process.</p> <p>While it might sound like we’re gushing over the 750D’s design, there are still a few quirks that keep this case from “killer” status. For starters, Corsair slaps four drive trays for SSDs on the right side of the chassis, directly blocking the rear of the 3.5-inch drive cage (or cages, depending on your configuration). It’s a pain in the butt to route cables and manage storage on the drive cages if you have all four 2.5-inch trays filled with SSDs.</p> <p>While installing an optical drive into one of the three free 5.25-inch bays isn’t that bad (you have to pop off a front panel from behind and slide the drive in) the optical drive doesn’t actually sit flush against the covers. It ends up being recessed just a bit, which makes for a not-so-impressive aesthetic on the case’s front.</p> <p>These misgivings are still minor detractions from an otherwise excellent chassis. The 750D is big, fairly easy to work with, and offers a great arrangement for all but the most tricked-out systems, storage-wise.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Corsair 750D<br /></strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$160 (street), <a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="font-style: italic; font-weight: normal;">Note: This article was taken from the March 2014 issue of the magazine.</span></strong></p> chassis Cooler Master Cosmos SE Corsair 750D Hardware March issues 2014 maximum pc Review Cases Features Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:59:32 +0000 The Maximum PC Staff 27982 at WD Black2 SSD+HDD Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>One drive to rule them all</h3> <p>The WD Black2 is an answer to the prayers of mobile users who have just one drive bay but want the speed of an SSD with the capacity of a hard drive. Unlike a hybrid drive, which stores all data on a hard drive but uses a limited amount of flash storage for caching, the WD Black2 features an all-new design whereby a single 2.5-inch enclosure houses both a hard drive and an SSD—two distinct drives that appear to the OS as such, so you can put your OS on the SSD and your data on the hard drive. It’s a brilliant solution that unfortunately gives up a bit of performance in order to conform to the small form factor, but if we had just one storage bay in our notebooks, we’d upgrade to this bad mutha immediately.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wdfmobile_black2_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wdfmobile_black2_small.jpg" alt="The Black2 delivers a 120GB SSD and a 1TB HDD in a slim 2.5-inch package." title="WD Black2 SSD+HDD" width="620" height="481" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Black2 delivers a 120GB SSD and a 1TB HDD in a slim 2.5-inch package.</strong></p> <p>The drive is a 9.5mm unit, so it won’t be sliding into any ultraportables—those require a 7mm drive—but it will fit just fine in a larger notebook. The SSD portion of the drive is a 120GB unit that uses 20nm MLC NAND flash, though the NAND manufacturer is unknown. It utilizes a JMicron controller as well as DRAM onboard cache. There is also a Marvell SATA bridge chip that allows both drives to share the lone SATA 6Gb/s interface. The hard drive portion is a two-platter, 5,400rpm model with 1TB of capacity, and its “Black” designation indicates that it’s one of Seagate’s “high-performance” drives, but with hard drives we don’t expect blistering performance anymore. We’d just like them to not suck too hard, and for mobile duties they need to conserve power, so they don’t have very big shoes to fill. The drive includes an outstanding five-year warranty, and is Windows-only at this time, as it requires software to “unlock” the 1TB partition. Once unlocked though, the partition is visible on any system, or at least it appeared on all the Windows machines we connected it to; we did not verify this with a Mac or Linux machine. You can’t use two of these drives in RAID, nor can you span data across both partitions.</p> <p>WD lists the drive’s performance specs for the SSD as offering 350MB/s read speeds and 140MB/s write speeds, but it doesn’t list any numbers for the hard drive. In our testing we found the SSD to offer slightly faster read speeds, hitting 429MB/s in ATTO, and its write speed of 129MB was very close to spec. That’s not as fast as even a midrange SSD, however, so we would not enlist it for heavy usage or any video work. The hard drive portion averaged 114MB/s read and write speeds in testing, which is good enough for data storage but not super impressive. Also, since both drives share a SATA interface, transferring data to both drives simultaneously can cause a traffic jam—we saw read speeds on the SSD drop about 100MB/s when copying data to the hard drive at the same time.</p> <p>All in all, this drive is clearly a compromise, but one we’d be willing to live with if we were constrained by a single storage bay. The SSD is fast enough, and 1TB of storage is bodacious, as well. If it were faster it would earn a Kick Ass award, but for now we’ll probably have to wait until Gen 2 to satisfy all of our desires.</p> <p><strong>$300,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in our March 2014 issue of&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="" target="_blank">the magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> Hardware HDD March issues 2014 Review ssd WD Black2 Reviews SSD Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:56:43 +0000 Josh Norem 27973 at Antec Kuhler H20 950 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A sizeable quandary</h3> <p>Re-engineering computer hardware is an expensive and time-consuming process. That’s why the technology usually evolves gradually, rather than in fits and starts; great leaps are risky. When you do something novel, it needs to be for a good reason. When Antec recently introduced two new types of coolers, the Kuhler 1250 and the 950, it did something pretty different. In a closed-loop liquid-cooling (CLC) system, the pump is customarily integrated into the heatsink that sits on top of the CPU. But with this new series of Kuhler units, Antec has moved the pump on top of the fan, which it uses to power the pump. The 950 ups the ante even further by putting a fan on each side of the radiator, making it a truly bulky piece of equipment. Always happy to see an innovative design, we hoped that perhaps the 950 would excel where the 1250 (reviewed last issue) was just OK for the price.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/kuhler_950_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/kuhler_950_small.jpg" alt="Despite its mass, this cooler fit in our test bed, as long we installed it in the rear and not the top." title="Antec Kuhler H20 950" width="620" height="411" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Despite its mass, this cooler fit in our test bed, as long we installed it in the rear and not the top.</strong></p> <p>Looking through the documentation and the marketing materials, one does not find bold claims of breakthrough performance or whisper-quiet operation. Antec does not appear to assert any advantage over other CLCs. But one look at the pictures, and it’s pretty clear that this guy wants a bold amount of real estate inside your PC. Ironically, though, despite having one fan on either side of the rad (which itself is 50mm thick, twice the usual), we found the 950 was actually easier to install than its big brother. The whole assembly cleared the large heatsinks on our Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard, which is not known for modesty. Our tall and fancy-looking sticks of RAM also had plenty of room. The 950’s immobile pipes that go from the pump to the rad partially obstructed one of the screw holes on the CPU tray bracket, but we were able to angle it in after some fiddling. (Pro tip: Don’t fully insert your screws until all four corners of the bracket are attached.)</p> <p>So far, so good. Next is the cabling. Like the 1250, it’s all integrated into the heatsink—if you don’t mind using only the bundled “Grid” fan control software to report your temps and speeds. We needed our usual testing tools, so we had to grab a Y-splitter to connect the unit’s two fans to one motherboard fan header, in addition to testing with the official installation method. When we linked the fans to the motherboard, though, Grid could no longer “see” the fans. This either-or scenario is a bit vexing, but not a deal-breaker. Most people should be fine with Grid. You can install it from the CD in the retail box, or download it from the product page on Antec’s website.</p> <p>In terms of raw performance, the 950 did not fare as well as we hoped. It regularly outpaced the best air coolers, but it also ran consistently behind top-shelf CLCs (both the 120mm and 240mm variety). Since the design of the cooler is so unconventional, it’s difficult to define the source of these underwhelming results. On the plus side, the fans had pretty good noise levels; once the side panel was on, we could barely hear the 950’s fans, as long as we weren’t running them full-tilt. We don’t measure noise scientifically, though, so your mileage may vary.</p> <p>The difference between this and, say, an NZXT X60 is only a few degrees Celsius. In the real world, you may never take advantage of that additional edge. Every buyer, however, will need to deal with the 950’s somewhat-awkward installation and nonremovable fan. In the end, the 950 does some interesting things, but it doesn’t quite have the performance to make up for its quirks.</p> <p><strong>$100,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the March 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href=";cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> All in one Antec Kuhler H20 950 clc closed loop Hardware Review water coolers Reviews Water Cooling Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:50:31 +0000 Tom McNamara 27954 at Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Ready to put the Hert(z) on AMD</h3> <p>It can get a bit confusing in the video card world, what with the similar names for all the cards and the subtle differences among models. Things just got more confusing this month with the release of the Gigabyte GTX 780 GHz Edition, which was a special designation previously used for AMD cards. Since AMD has abandoned the GHz tag, however, Gigabyte figured it would adopt it and attach it to a superclocked version of the venerable GTX 780. Whereas the standard GTX 780 comes with a base clock of just 863MHz and a boost clock of 900MHz, the GHz edition comes with a base clock of—can you guess?—1,019MHz and a boost clock of 1,071MHz. That’s quite an overclock right out of the box, and to achieve it Gigabyte has deployed its highly effective WindForce triple-fan cooling solution. We’ve seen this cooler before on the company’s higher-spec’d GTX 780 Ti, so we know it allows for silent operation and impressive overclocking. The GTX 780 is in the middle of a price war with AMD’s new R9 GPUs, so it has to keep costs down in order to remain competitive. The R9 290 is generally faster than the GTX 780 in stock trim, so the GHz edition is a response to that card, but since it’s priced at $540 it’s primed to take on the R9 290X, as well.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gigabyte-gtx-780-ghz-edition-windforce-3x-2_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gigabyte-gtx-780-ghz-edition-windforce-3x-2_small.jpg" alt="This bad boy boosted to almost 1,200MHz right out of the box. " title="Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition" width="620" height="363" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This bad boy boosted to almost 1,200MHz right out of the box. </strong></p> <p>Compared to the stock GTX 780, the GHz edition has the aforementioned higher clocks as well as a fully custom PCB that includes an eight-phase power design for more stable overclocking. It also features two 8-pin power connectors instead of a 6-pin and an 8-pin, which helps it achieve those higher clocks and remain stable at higher frequencies. Finally, it features a metal back-and-side plate that wraps around the card on all sides, which isn’t something we’ve seen before on an aftermarket card. The GHz edition card is one-half inch longer than the stock card at 11 inches, and costs about $40 more than the reference design.</p> <p>For our testing, we compared the card to a stock GTX 780 as well as the king of GTX 780s—the EVGA GTX 780 ACX, which received a perfect 10/Kick Ass verdict in our October issue. We also tossed it in the ring with a stock AMD Radeon R9 290 and an R9 290X, since they are all in the same GPU ballpark. When compared to the Radeon cards, the GHz edition board ate their lunch, which is a turnaround from what we’ve seen before, where the cards were neck-and-neck in testing. The GTX 780 GHz even beat the more expensive Radeon R9 290X in seven out of 11 of our tests, and simply crushed the Radeon R9 290 in all but two tests. Since the Radeon cards are hard to find and priced accordingly, the regular 290 is now more than $500, so choosing between it and the 780 GHz edition is a no-brainer, as the 780 wins every time. Choosing between the Gigabyte card and the EVGA card is more difficult though, as the EVGA card is about $10 less expensive, so flip a coin because they are both superb.</p> <p><strong>$540 (street),</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the March 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href=";cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Hardware March issues 2014 maximum pc Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:49:06 +0000 Josh Norem 27944 at Neat Company NeatConnect Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Eliminating paper clutter, one scan at a time</h3> <p>Consider the growing pile of paper on your desk. Yes, most of it will be tossed in the trash or end up lost behind your file cabinet along with coffee coasters and PCIe brackets. The Neat Company aims to tidy your work surface with its NeatConnect, a wireless scanner that digitalizes your documents and organizes them into its cloud filing system.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/neatconnect_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/neatconnect_small.jpg" alt="Eliminating paper clutter, one scan at a time" title="Neat Company NeatConnect " width="620" height="600" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>NeatConnect allows up to 50 documents in the loading tray at once.</strong></p> <p>This isn’t the first scanner we’ve tested from the Neat Company, but it’s the first scanner we’ve tested that uploads files directly to the cloud without the use of any software on your PC. NeatConnect even allows you to directly upload to your favorite cloud-storage services, such as Dropbox, SkyDrive, Evernote, Box, and Google Drive. But even given the option to upload files to other cloud storage sites, the NeatCloud is the best way to maximize value from NeatConnect.</p> <p>NeatConnect features a sleek white cover; slot sizes for business cards, receipts, and documents; and a small touchscreen interface in the center. The device measures 11x8.7x7.5-inches and weighs just 5.3 pounds. NeatConnect supports SD cards and features one USB port on the back, for the direct transfer of PDF files onto your PC, albeit only in black-and-white when using this method. While color and various file formats are an option for cloud storage, NeatConnect is designed for document scanning, not photo scanning. In fact, the Neat Company does not recommend using the device to scan photos because it may damage them; if you’re looking to digitalize your photo albums, look elsewhere.</p> <p>Installation is a no-brainer. Upon boot, the scanner requires an 802.11 b/g/n connection and a NeatCloud account, which can be created on the spot. Like today’s smartphones, NeatConnect guides you through short tutorials and then lets you begin scanning. The touchscreen interface enables you to save scans onto the device itself, your PC, NeatCloud, or other cloud storage services. NeatConnect also enables files to be sent via email directly. The touchscreen interface enables a variety of scanning options including color, grayscale, or black-and-white scans. You can also enable single-sided or double-sided scanning, separate or bundled files, DPI resolutions of 150, 200, 300, or 600, and popular file extensions such as PDF, TIFF, and JPG. The Neat Company sports iOS and Android apps, allowing you to upload a photo on the go or to view files in the NeatCloud.</p> <p>We like the NeatConnect’s intuitive interface, mobile app, and great cloud service, but picking one up will set you back a cool $500. After three months, NeatCloud charges users $6 per month for the baseline service. If you find that you’re managing home- or small-business expenses and are looking for a great way to quickly organize and retrieve information, the NeatConnect is a worthy investment.</p> <p><strong>$500,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the March 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href=";cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> Hardware March issues 2014 Neat Connect Review scanners Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:48:03 +0000 Clark Crisp 27943 at