Review en Nvidia Shield Tablet Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>The best gaming tablet in town</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 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>At eight inches, the Shield Tablet features a gorgeous 1,900x1,200 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 we have 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 version 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 but 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 for you to purchase, download, and launch your 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 card 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 the 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 is claiming 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>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 like a lighter and 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 in 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. A quibble we had with it is that we wish the trackpad was more square, to at least mimic the dimensions of the tablet as 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 did remedy the issue, however. One noticeable missing feature from the controller is rumble support. Nvidia said this was omitted on the original Shield to keep the weight down, however its omission is a little more glaring this time around since there is 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, however. 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 setting up the cover and getting it to standup 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 too, 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 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 first and foremost is 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 customers 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 was likely on Nvidia’s mind. Of course, not everyone may even want a controller with the general lack of support for it 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 as good as 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. &nbsp;</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 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 which we couldn’t get working 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 check list, the Shield Tablet is easily the top contender today. We’d take it over the second-gen Nexus 7 in a heart beat. 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> android Google Hardware KitKat maximum pc nvidia portable Review shield tablet wireless controller News Reviews Tablets Tue, 29 Jul 2014 19:36:57 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28263 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 NZXT Source 530 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Simple, easy, spacious, and warm</h3> <p>It’s understandable that NZXT left a few bucks off the price of its Source 530 case, as this full-tower chassis is really more a midrange offering than something you’ll be taking out a second mortgage for. We’re big fans of that, especially since the case’s interior contains all of the usual NXZT-esque features that have graced many of company’s previous cases we’ve reviewed.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/img_0008_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/img_0008_small.jpg" alt="Think of the Source 530 as a more sedate Phantom 530." title="NZXT Source 530" width="620" height="668" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Think of the Source 530 as a more sedate Phantom 530.</strong></p> <p>Beyond the side-panel screws, which were a real beast to remove, installing a system inside of this decently roomy chassis couldn’t be much easier. Motherboard standoffs on the Source 530 come pre-installed on the tray (yes!), an ample cutout exists behind the CPU cooler for any aftermarket fiddling you might want to do, and there’s just about an inch of space between the tray’s rear and the (other) side of the case for cable management.</p> <p>Storage-wise, the Source 530 uses drive trays to give you a speedy installation path for up to six 3.5-inch drives at once. They’re split into three separate cages that fit one, two, and three drives each, which you can remove from the case in an effort to “improve” airflow within your chassis. Why quotes? We’ll get to that in a moment.</p> <p>The three bays for optical drives (or fancier fun, like all the ample water-cooling this case can support) use built-in locking mechanisms to hold your components in place; the more timid among you can also use two screws to secure each device from the other side. A single 2.5-inch drive mount sits behind the motherboard tray for any SSDs you want to stuff vertically. Additional 2.5-inch drives can be mounted into the 3.5 trays, too.</p> <p>Installing add-in cards in the case is your typical, mildly annoying affair—thumbscrews hold the covers in place and you’ll likely need (or want) a screwdriver to take them off. The motherboard tray itself has six major cable-routing holes drilled into it, which do a great job of assisting you when you go to string wires every which way. Our standard test build for cases—which includes the use of an Nvidia GTX 480 video card—left us with plenty of room to maneuver and hide our cables around the chassis (thanks to said holes).</p> <p>Here’s where it gets troublesome, however. The case comes with two fans pre-installed. However, NZXT slaps a 12cm fan at the rear of the case’s inside, and a 12cm fan on the rear-top—both exhaust. We’d prefer to have a dedicated intake fan for stronger cooling, and we’re slightly worried that the HDDs won’t get adequate cooling (though NZXT does give you the option to use your own 12-, 14-, or 20cm fan). Yes, we know there’s research to indicate that, despite popular belief, drive temps don’t really impact life span, but we get uncomfortable without some air moving over our HDDs, especially in the stifling-hot summers.</p> <p>Rounding out this chassis are two USB 3.0 ports on its front, and a button that controls a lovely, SATA-powered LED light on its rear. Quaint touches for an otherwise roomy, easy-to-use, sub-$100 full-tower chassis. Still, you can pack quite a party in NZXT’s chassis; what it lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up for in raw simplicity.</p> <p><strong>$90,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the</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 maximum pc NZXT Source 530 Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:50:30 +0000 David Murphy 27879 at iBuypower Battalion M1771-2 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>When form trumps function</h3> <p>It’s really no surprise that most 17-inch gaming laptops are back-breakers. Large screens generally equate to large chassis, and beefy, enthusiast components just add to the bulk. But iBuypower obliterates that trend with the Battalion M1771-2—but not without a few trade-offs.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ibuypower_13031_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ibuypower_13031_small.jpg" alt="You can change the color of the LED backlight beneath the keyboard, but the letters don’t glow." title="iBuypower Battalion M1771-2" width="620" height="568" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;">You can change the color of the LED backlight beneath the keyboard, but the letters don’t glow.</p> <p>The relatively portable form factor really is the star of the show here. While the 16.4x11.2-inch laptop can consume a lot of desk space, the M1771-2 is mind-bogglingly thin at .85 inches, which makes it .3 inches thinner than the already-amazingly slim 14-inch Razer Blade that we reviewed in July. The M1771-2 is also impressively light for its class, weighing five pounds, 15.4 ounces, which is nearly half a pound lighter than even our “smaller” 14-inch Alienware 14 zero-point. Sexier still is the fact that the power brick is relatively compact, weighing less than 1.5 pounds (most gaming notebook chargers easily weigh more than two pounds).</p> <p>Truth be told, the M1771-2 is actually eerily similar to Razer’s sexy 17-inch laptop that we reviewed in our Holiday 2012 issue. Although it’s not quite as eye-catching as Razer’s offering, the M1771-2 is made of the same sleek black metal, but features a full-size keyboard with number pad in lieu of Razer’s Switchblade UI. While you can change the color of the keyboard’s LED backlighting, the lighting itself is rather dim. Also, the logo on the back of the M1771-2’s display gets the sticker treatment, unlike the sweet-looking LED logo on the 17-inch Razer Blade.</p> <p>Like the Razer, the M1771-2 lacks an optical drive, but it outdoes the Razer by offering a fourth USB 3.0 port, an SD card reader, and two Mini DisplayPorts. We didn’t think it was possible to cram so many features into such a slim laptop. Color us impressed.</p> <p>All in all, however, the notebook is quite average. The M1771-2 uses a 17.3-inch 1920x1080-resolution TN display, and though the viewing angles aren’t bad for a TN panel, we’ve seen much better from the likes of Maingear’s Nomad 15 (reviewed February 2013). And, of course, it can’t compare to the viewing angles and color accuracy offered by an IPS panel.</p> <p>We also weren’t blown away by the laptop’s speakers, as we thought they could use a bit more volume for noisy environments. The M1771-2’s Elan touchpad is serviceable and we like that it features multitouch gestures for two-finger scrolling, but you’ll definitely want to tweak the sensitivity settings. Furthermore, we would have preferred two separate physical buttons as opposed to having both integrated beneath the trackpad, so as to avoid any swiping and clicking confusion. The keyboard features chiclet keys that feel sturdy enough, but we do wish the buttons were a smidgen bigger given the large surface area that’s available.</p> <p>Tucked compactly within the chassis is a quad-core 2.4GHz Core i7-4700HQ, 16GB of DDR3/1600, and a GeForce GTX 765M with 2GB of GDDR5. Aside from the Alienware 14’s Core i7-4700MQ processor, which falters ever so slightly in the integrated-graphics department, both the M1771-2 and our zero-point carry the same core components.</p> <p>Despite being equipped with very similar CPUs on paper, however, the M1771-2 lagged behind in our ProShow Producer and Stitch processor tests by roughly 5–8 percent. iBuypower’s notebook was even slower in the multithread-heavy x264 HD 5.0 benchmark, falling behind by 10 percent. We suspect the thinner chassis can’t dissipate the heat as well as the Alienware, so the processor runs on Turbo Boost just a bit less. However, the iBuypower did fare better in our graphics tests. It was a wash in BioShock Infinite and 3DMark 11, but the M1771-2 was able to best our ZP laptop by 4 percent in Metro: Last Light. In our experiential gameplay tests of Battlefield 4 at its high preset settings and Call of Duty: Ghosts on its highest “extra” settings, both games garnered average frame rates in the high 30s at 1920x1080 resolution. While the games are playable, we recommend tweaking the settings a bit for a smoother experience.</p> <p>We don’t have any kind words to say about the laptop’s battery life, unfortunately. iBuypower says that you should be able to squeeze three to six hours of juice out of the 6-cell 5400mAh battery, but we achieved a meager two and a half hours in our video-rundown test. We don’t normally harp on battery life too much for gaming laptops because they’re often desktop replacements, but considering how relatively portable the M1771-2 actually is, its small battery is an unfortunate quality. In this case, we wouldn’t mind a few additional ounces in exchange for a beefier battery that’s guaranteed for at least three hours.</p> <p>Although the M1771-2 cuts some corners with its parts and peripherals, its large screen and super-svelte form factor make it fairly priced at $1,860. It’s not a perfect laptop by any means, but if you want a portable gaming laptop with a large screen that doesn’t break the bank, you won’t find a better option at the moment.</p> <p><strong>$1,860,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the</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 iBuypower Battalion M1771-2 laptops maximum pc Review Reviews Notebooks Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:49:33 +0000 Jimmy Thang 27858 at Asus Mars 760 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A superb GPU, but there’s little reason to buy it</h3> <p>We’ve often wondered why dual-GPU video cards always use two flagship GPUs instead of something a bit more midrange. Sure, we get the whole “most powerful card in the world” marketing tagline that inevitably follows the creation of cards with two high-end GPUs, but those suckers are expensive, run really hot, and oftentimes require exotic cooling. Well, this month Asus has answered our question by packing two midrange GeForce GTX 760 GPUs into one PCB, creating a $650 dual-GPU card designed to take on the $1,000 GTX Titan and the $700 GTX 780 Ti. We figured it would be potent before we even put it on a test bench, since in our “Tested!” feature back in October 2013 we found dual GTX 660 Ti cards to be faster than a GTX 780. Therefore, it’s not a stretch to imagine that two GTX 760s could be faster than a Titan, but since people aren’t that into the dual-GPU thing these days, this will have to be one stupid-fast card to make us believers.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dual_geforce_13007_small_2_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dual_geforce_13007_small_2.jpg" alt="There is a Mars logo on the side that lights up and “breathes” during operation. " title="Asus Mars 760" width="620" height="717" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>There is a Mars logo on the side that lights up and “breathes” during operation. </strong></p> <p>To recap, the GTX 760 uses a GPU named GK104 that is considered midrange nowadays, but in 2012 was found in the flagship GTX 680 card. The two GPUs aren’t exactly the same though, as the GTX 760 chip is in a slightly milder state of tune, with just 1,152 CUDA cores (the original GTX 680 had 1,536 cores). The GTX 680 was also clocked a bit higher than the GTX 760, but Asus has made up for that by clocking the Mars 760 at the same clock speed as the original GTX 680, which is extremely high by today’s standards, at 1,006MHz with a 1,072MHz boost clock. Each GPU in the Mars has 2GB of RAM clocked at 6GHz, and it operates over a 256-bit interface. The board uses a custom PCB that is 11 inches long and has 12-phase power, but takes up only two PCIe slots. Asus has qualified this board for external SLI, so you could theoretically hook up two of these bad muthas for quad-SLI if you have the bankroll.</p> <p>In testing, the Mars 760 was indeed one of the fastest GPUs we’ve ever benchmarked, besting the more-expensive GTX Titan and GTX 780 Ti as well, but failing to dethrone the almighty GTX 690. In every test, it was basically neck-and-neck with the GTX 780 Ti, putting the Mars 760 right up there with the fastest of Nvidia’s arsenal, so kudos to Asus on that. In addition to its top-shelf performance, it was exceptionally quiet and cool, never rising above 80 C under load, even when overclocked to 1,215MHz. According to our records, this also makes it one of the coolest-running high-end GPUs we’ve tested recently, as the GTX 780 Ti runs at about 82 C, and the R9 290X runs at 94 C.</p> <p>There’s clearly a lot to like here, but there are also two big problems. First, the GTX 760 SLI can be purchased for $500 or less, making this card too expensive. Second, since it’s on par with the GTX 780 Ti, we imagine most people will just want that card since you don’t have to hassle with SLI. Overall, the Mars 760 is excellent, but nobody was asking for a card like this for Nvidia users, and its price is a bit tough to swallow, so maybe there’s a reason few have taken this route.</p> <p><strong>$650,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><em>Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the<a 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>.</em></p> Asus Mars 760 Hardware maximum pc Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:48:47 +0000 Josh Norem 27846 at CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>The birth of a new form factor</h3> <p>Form factors are never easy to define. For example, where’s the line between a mid-tower and a full-tower? And how do you define small form factor?</p> <p>Amid all this confusion, we thought we had at least defined what a micro-tower is: a thin and powerful PC with discrete graphics, such as the Falcon Northwest Tiki or Digital Storm Bolt. Easy, right?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/cyberpower_micro-12994_small2_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/cyberpower_micro-12994_small2.jpg" alt="Maybe we should call this a macro-tower?" title="CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300" width="620" height="757" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Maybe we should call this a macro-tower?</strong></p> <p>Wrong. CyberPower bends the definition with its new Hadron Hydro 300. At first glance, it looks like a micro-tower, but upon closer examination, you think, no, it’s not quite a micro-tower because it’s too wide, right? The box certainly isn’t as big as, say, the micro-ATX-based V3 Devastator that we reviewed in our Holiday 2013 issue. So, just what the frak is it? Maybe, as Senior Editor Josh Norem suggested, it’s a “macro-tower”—the bigger cousin to a micro-tower.</p> <p>There’s indeed an advantage to the just-a-bit-wider-than-a-micro-tower form factor. Every micro-tower we’ve seen is limited to air cooling or closed-loop cooling of the CPU only. The GPU, arguably the hottest part in the case, has to go it on air cooling alone. With the slightly wider Hadron, CyberPower is able to add a slick, miniaturized custom-cooling loop that keeps both the CPU and GPU cool. The rad isn’t some small jobbie, either, but a full-on dual-fan radiator mounted in the top. To make full use of the space, the system actually snakes liquid out through the back of the case and into the top using a very trick-looking set of chrome hard tubes. The fans are mounted under the rad in a push configuration, which vents hot air out the grill top.</p> <p>A full-on custom-cooling loop solves another issue we’ve see in micro-towers: noise. When enough hardware is pushed to the max in a micro-tower, it gets loud. The fastest micro-tower we’ve ever tested is Falcon’s Tiki, which we reviewed in our November issue. That box pushed the acoustic envelope, although its Haswell was also overclocked to an insane 4.7GHz.</p> <p>The Core i7-4770K in the CyberPower Hadron seems conservative at 4.2GHz, but the custom loop also absorbs the thermals from an EVGA Hydro Copper 2 GTX 780 card. Even under the heaviest loads, the system never got terribly loud. It’s not silent by a long shot, but it’s certainly quieter than most micro-towers when pushed hard.</p> <p>In performance, the Hadron represents well against the micro-towers we’ve tested. On the CPU side, it’s tied with or faster than all but the Falcon Northwest Tiki from our November 2013 roundup. Its liquid-cooled and overclocked GTX 780 outpaces or ties the micro-towers’ GPUs, as well. The Hadron also outruns the V3 Devastator we reviewed in our Holiday 2013 issue in all CPU-related tasks, but loses badly against the V3’s SLI’d GeForce GTX 770s. There’s just no way a single GeForce GTX 780 can manhandle SLI cards. That’s also why the CyberPower Hadron gets lumped up by our zero-point’s GeForce GTX 690 and its hexa-core processor.</p> <p>In the price-to-performance calculator, the CyberPower Hadron does OK, coming in at $2,300. Its closest competitor is the iBuypower Revolt from our November 2013 roundup, which cost $2,000—with a GeForce Titan. The V3 Devastator also offers a nice package at $2,500, although that box is definitely bigger and only gives you a Core i5 part.</p> <p>We should give the CyberPower Hadron its due respect, though—we’ve come to expect small boxes to run on air or off-the-shelf liquid coolers and that’s just not true anymore. This is a sexy little number.</p> <p><strong>$2,260,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the</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> CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300 Hardware maximum pc microtower Review Small Form Factor Reviews Systems Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:46:50 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27836 at Asrock M8 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Behold: The DIY micro-tower has finally arrived</h3> <p>We’ll be honest. We’ve been green with envy over micro-tower boxes. Alienware’s X51 first kicked off the party and since then, Falcon Northwest, Digital Storm, and iBuypower have followed suit.</p> <p>That’s fine and dandy for buyers of nicely crafted PCs, but what about the DIYer who likes to roll her own? Well, your time has finally come in Asrock’s new M8 tower.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/asrock_mini-12985_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/asrock_mini-12985_small.jpg" alt="BMW’s design group actually worked on the M8’s look and feel." title="Asrock M8" width="620" height="763" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>BMW’s design group actually worked on the M8’s look and feel.</strong></p> <p>The company has been known primarily as the cost-conscious option for enthusiasts, but there’s more to it than that. While Asrock’s motherboards have always been pretty budget, the company also is known to push the edge, giving you eyebrow-raising features at its eyebrow-raising prices.</p> <p>The M8 is an example of this. At 14.5 inches deep, 4.8 inches wide, and 15.5 inches tall, this micro-tower is similar to iBuypower’s Revolt. That means it’s definitely larger than Alienware’s X51, as well as the two other micro-towers in the world: Falcon Northwest’s Tiki and Digital Storm’s Bolt.</p> <p>The Asrock M8 isn’t just a chassis, though—it’s a bare-bones build. That means the micro-tower chassis comes with an <br />Asrock Z87-M8 Mini-ITX board, a 450-watt SFX PSU, and a slim-line optical drive.</p> <p>To get the M8 up and running, all you need to do is bring an LGA1150 CPU, some SO-DIMM RAM, and storage. If you want to play any real games, you also need to slot in a discrete GPU.</p> <p>The two main parts we want to dish about are the motherboard and the chassis. The motherboard is a standard Mini-ITX board, but apparently made just for the M8. We were initially turned off by the use of SO-DIMMs rather than DIMMs, but there is a trade-off to be made when you use the longer DIMMs in board space. The Z87-M8 features a full set of SATA 6Gb/s ports right where the full-size DIMMs would have gone. We can’t say getting six SATA ports is impossible with desktop DIMM slots, but it certainly would be more of a challenge. We’ll also note that this is no bare-bones, strippo motherboard. It features Creative Labs’ Core 3D audio with an amp designed to drive fat cans, an integrated mini PCIe 802.11AC/Bluetooth 4.0 card, a full-featured UEFI, and, since it’s Z87, it will support overclocking, too. The board also features a compelling set of utilities for updating and fan control that we recommend you not skip.</p> <p>The chassis itself is quite interesting. Asrock worked with BMW’s Designworks-USA on its looks. Externally, it’s easy on the eyes, and its aluminum doors and embedded handles give it a nice touch of class. The center of the chassis is mostly plastic and steel, though. In an interesting trick, both doors are held on with neodymium magnets that clamp on pretty well. There’s also a key to lock the doors in place, but we had issues with that because the latch kept getting stuck—on wires that had bunched underneath the lock, we think.</p> <p>Another nice touch is the BMW-like circular controller that lets you scroll between various systems settings. The knob doubles as a display with an integrated orange OLED that shows system info such as clock speed or the time and date.</p> <p>The two trickiest elements in modern micro-towers are the storage options and the graphic options. Alienware’s X51, for example, is limited to a single 3.5-inch HDD that can be swapped out for a pair of 2.5-inch drives. It’s been a limitation of the smaller chassis that we’ve long harped on. There’s no such constraint in the M8. Although a bit of a brain bender, the chassis lets you sandwich up to four 2.5-inch drives into a drive tray. If you need magnetic storage, you can actually reconfigure the 2.5-inch tray to hold a single 3.5-tray. If you still want your SSD, a fifth 2.5-tray is tucked under the PSU. It’s not fun to get in there, but at least you have the option.</p> <p>Our biggest complaint with building into the system was adding the GPU. First: The M8 will take a GPU with the max dimensions of 11.5x5.4x1.7 inches—so most single-GPU cards—and we were able to easily put a GeForce 780 Ti card into the space. Our issue was with the metal tray the card slides into. You have to remove both it and the top of the case to access the drive cage, but when trying to put the GPU tray back into the machine, we could not hit the exact position to screw it into place. We tried multiple angles and reseating, but it took brute force to get it back in. Is it us, is it our unit, or is it a design issues? We don’t know, but we haven’t seen any other complaints online about such a problem, so take it for what it’s worth. It certainly requires more work than other micro-towers we’ve seen, except for maybe the Bolt.</p> <p>To test the unit, we grabbed a few parts to see how it would run. This included a Core i5-4670K, 16GB of DDR3/1600, a pair of 120GB Corsair Neutron drives, and a GeForce GTX 780 Ti reference card. For the record, Asrock says the M8 is rated for GPUs with max TDP of 200 watts. We intentionally went over that limit with the GeForce GTX 780 Ti’s 250-watt TDP to see if the M8 could hack it. We then looped 3DMark overnight twice to see if it would melt. We didn’t see any issues but we suppose a full load of SSDs or an actual mechanical drive might add to the stress. If we did stick with a sub-200W GPU though, our options on the high-end are limited. The GeForce GTX 770 is 230 watts and the Radeon R9 280X is 250 watts, so the best AMD card you could use would be the Radeon R9 270X at 180 watts or a GeForce GTX 760 at 170 watts, according to the recommendations. Again, we ran our 250-watt GeForce GTX 780 Ti with no issues, but that’s not the same as running it for eight months through a blazing summer. Ideally, it would be nice if Asrock had a 500-watt PSU option on the M8.</p> <p>The other issue for the M8 is that, despite its size, there is no option for liquid cooling. There’s simply no place to put the cooler since the cover has no vent. We ran an Intel stock cooler in our build, and there are low-profile, more efficient coolers, but with such limited space, your overclock won’t get crazy. The liquid-cooled Falcon Northwest Tiki, for example, pushed its Haswell part up to 4.7GHz.</p> <p>So, where does that leave us? The M8 is imperfect. It could use a bigger PSU and more cooling, and the GPU tray, on our unit at least, was a pain. But it’s also a good value, performance-oriented, and let’s face it: Beggars can’t really be choosey. We’ve been groveling for months for a DIY solution, and this is as close as you can get today.</p> <p><strong>$450 (street),</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the magazine.</span></p> Asrock M8 February issues 2014 Hardware maximum pc Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:45:09 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27830 at Origin PC Genesis Overview (Video) <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/origin_pc_genesis_2.png" alt="origin pc genesis" title="origin pc genesis" width="250" height="161" style="float: right;" />Check out video footage of this cool, revolutionary chassis</h3> <p>In this video, Gordon walks you through Origin PC’s Genesis. The Genesis features the company’s custom designed and modular chassis that lets the builder add a bottom slice with additional radiators or hard drives as well as the capability to mount the motherboard tray in four orientations including reversing the tray and window. It’s truly a unique and dare we say it—revolutionary approach to case design. And yes, just like custom systems from other vendors, you can get the case—you just have to buy entire system and gut the parts. The case isn’t quite perfect though so Gordon walks you through what works and what doesn't. And no, despite what Gordon seems to imply, you can’t actually change the orientation of the motherboard willy nilly. That’s done when you order the machine and when it’s being built.</p> <p><iframe src="//" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> chassis genesis gordon ung Hardware maximum pc millenium origin pc overview Review Specs video News Reviews Features Fri, 27 Jun 2014 17:50:04 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28079 at The Walking Dead: Season Two Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>We would have befriended the cat instead</h3> <p>We reason there are a number of you who have heard of The Walking Dead, but have never gotten a chance to exercise your mouse fingers in this quasi-game. This has led us to wonder: Is the second season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead compelling enough to make one go through the entire series up until this point? Could you even jump back in if you had a peek at Season One but never quite got around to finishing it?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/1_small_38.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/1_small_37.jpg" alt="Heavy Rain, it’s not, but The Walking Dead: Season Two does incorporate a few gesture-based actions." title="The Walking Dead" width="620" height="349" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Heavy Rain, it’s not, but The Walking Dead: Season Two does incorporate a few gesture-based actions.</strong></p> <p>We’ll make this decision easy: Yes, you should buy the second season of The Walking Dead.</p> <p>If the thought of investing roughly 13–15 hours or so to catch up in Season One doesn’t sound all that appealing, Telltale has you covered. Since the game is based on choices, Season Two can automatically import the key decisions you made in the game’s previous season. Even if you only finished a chapter, your decisions can have an impact on your Season Two life—anything you didn’t get to in the first season is automatically randomized by the game for you.</p> <p>That said, it’s important to realize that The Walking Dead is good at giving players the illusion of choice. For example, you’re going to get attacked by a dog in All That Remains no matter how you interact with the beast. It’s rare that your actions will have a significant, Choose Your Own Adventure–like major impact on your future. You’ll still go through the same overall plot, it’s just some of the details might vary based on your actions.</p> <p>A word about that: We love the game’s interactive storytelling, and there’s no doubt that it does force you to make some fairly emotional choices. We even found ourselves empathizing in different ways and varying our character’s mood depending on how an NPC was treating us. Still, the general pacing within these episodes feels a bit formulaic: You have a larger exploration section where you click a lot of stuff or talk to a lot of people, typically followed by a dangerous scenario that requires a reflexes-or-death reaction, followed by a larger “pick one of two big things that happen” section. Wash, rinse, repeat.</p> <p>Your character, Clementine, struggles to survive in a zombie-infested world—a gripping, gritty narrative featuring a great balance of quick-timing interactive elements and passive (albeit simplistic) exploration. The action bits feel more vivid and natural in Season Two, and we want to kiss the designer who thought it best that the interactive clues you point-and-click on disappear once you’ve performed the action (they persist in Season One, leading to much description repetition).</p> <p>The Walking Dead is more of a sitcom than a game (humorously enough, given the game’s roots can be found in a TV series). What it lacks in clickable depth, it more than makes up for in story and narrative delivery. The Walking Dead isn’t very complex; you can guess how the story will be told, but the game’s twists—dictated in part by you, the player—keep it fresh and engaging.</p> <p>Astute Maximum PC readers will note that we have yet to devote a paragraph to The Walking Dead’s plot, unlike the style of most of our game reviews. It’s not just because you control many elements of the story—no, you owe it to yourself to enjoy this survival adventure to the spoiler-free fullest, however you decide to do it.</p> <p>$25, <a href=""></a></p> March issues 2014 maximum pc Review season 2 walking dead Software Games Reviews Tue, 10 Jun 2014 09:03:18 +0000 David Murphy 27972 at