Reviews http://www.maximumpc.com/taxonomy/term/40/ en AMD Radeon R9 290 Benchmarks http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_radeon_r9_290_benchmarks <!--paging_filter--><h3>AMD's Radeon R9 290: A Mid-range Monster</h3> <p><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u302/amdrad_r9_290_flatangle_rgb_24in_small.png" alt="Radeon R9 290" title="Radeon R9 290" width="250" height="167" style="float: right;" />Today <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/amd">AMD</a> is launching the <strong>Radeon R9 290</strong>, which is the second card in its all-new Hawaii series of GPUs designed to take on <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/nvidia">Nvidia's</a> GK110-based super GPUs. This particular card is extremely similar to its big brother, the <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_radeon_r9_290x_benchmarks">R9 290X</a>, but has slightly lower clock speeds and fewer stream processors, allowing it to come in at a slightly lower price point of <strong>$400</strong>. Though it was originally designed to take on the formerly $400 GTX 770, AMD is now positioning it to compete with the GTX 780 due to Nvidia's recent price drops on both cards to $500 and $329, respectively. Read on to see how it handles the heat, both literally and figuratively.</p> <h3>Little Hawaii</h3> <p>As the second, lower-priced Hawaii board you might assume this card has been neutered more than a made-for-TV version of The Big Lebowski, but you would be wrong. Thankfully, AMD has left almost everything from the R9 290X intact, choosing to only reduce its texture units from 176 to 160, its Stream Processors from 2,816 to 2,560, and its maximum clock speed from 1,000MHz to 947MHz. It still has the same 4GB of memory, the same 512-bit memory bus, and is otherwise the exact same GPU. It also has the same PowerTune hardware and software that lets you dictate maximum fan speeds and core temps. Before we jump in, let's take a look at the specs for the Hawaii cards along with their Nvidia counterparts:</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/specs_take_2_0.jpg" alt="Radeon Specs" title="Radeon Specs" width="462" height="472" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>*We are putting an asterick next to the AMD cards' TDP because it's not a quoted spec but "standard board power."</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">As the spec chart shows, this card is almost exactly the same as the R9 290X, just like the <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/geforce_gtx_780_benchmarks">GTX 780</a> and <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/nvidia_geforce_titan_%E2%80%93_benchmarks2013">GTX Titan</a> in that you have two cards with the same die but one is a bit less powerful. The two cards are the same physical size at 11 inches, both require a six-pin and an eight-pin power connector, and both cards draw a bit over 300 watts too. AMD listed the TDP for the 290X as 250w, but it hedged that answer and never gave it as an official number, but rather an estimate. It didn't reply to our emails asking for the TDP of the R9 290, so we'll just put 250w there with an asterick.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><img src="/files/u302/amdrad_r9_290_flatangle_rgb_24in_small_1.png" alt="R9 290" title="R9 290" width="600" height="401" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The R9 290 is exactly the same size as the R9 290X at 11 inches, and it also features the same 250w-ish TDP. </strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <h3 style="text-align: left;">PowerTune, TrueAudio, and XDMA</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Like it's larger, more-powerful sibling, the R9 290 comes with all the baked in features that define the top-tier of this generation of GPUs, namely revamped PowerTune controls, TrueAudio technology, and XDNA Crossfire. TrueAudio and XDMA Crossfire are exclusive to the R9 290/X series of cards, though the current iteration of PowerTune is found on all Rx based cards, and TrueAudio is also found on the $140 R7 260X board.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/powertune_1.jpg" alt="PowerTune" title="PowerTune" width="600" height="701" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The new PowerTune controls let you set maximum limits for fan speeds and temperature. We preferred the sliders though, as we found that moving the reticle in the map caused unpredictable results. </strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Briefly, AMD has changed the PowerTune interface found in the Catalyst Control Center to give you an easier way to control clock, memory, and fan speeds. It also now has a slider that lets you dictate the maximum fan speed and maximum temperature, just like Nvidia is doing with its GPU Boost 2.0 technology found in its 700-series GPUs. You can tell the software to force the card to run at 90C, for example, and it'll throttle the clock speeds in order to maintain those temperatures. Additionally, if you're sensitive to acoustics, you can also set a limit on the fan speed while letting the other settings run at maximum value as well. It's also provided a "2-dimensional heat map" which we found confusing. We also found in testing that moving some of the sliders too far would cause the entire system to hard lock and then experience trouble rebooting, so tread carefully here.<strong> By default the fan on the R9 290 runs at a maximum speed of 47%</strong>.<strong><br /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>TrueAudio</strong> is also found on the R9 290, and whether or not it'll make a big difference in the life of an average gamer remains to be seen as no games that use it have been released yet. Gordon wrote an extremely in-depth article about it however, so <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/everything_you_wanted_know_about_amd%E2%80%99s_new_trueaudio_technology_2013">head on over</a> to it and you'll have all your questions answered.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Finally, <strong>XDMA </strong>is a new technology appearing for the first time in the Radeon R9 290 series of cards. It eschews the ribbon cable we've grown so un-fond of over all these years and instead uses hardware built into the GPUs and also lets the cards communicate over the PCI-Express bus. Though AMD had seemingly wrangled its frame pacing issues with its <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_delivers_frame_pacing_fix_driver_update135">recent fix</a>, it's software-based and still available for R9 280X cards and lower. For the R9 290 series though, those changes are built into the drivers and handled through XDMA. The previous GPUs based on Tahiti and lower will still have to use the ribbon cable as there's no exclusive hardware built into the GPUs to handle that transaction, but this is not surprising. It is also reasonable to assume that going forward all new GPUs will use XDMA.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">The main reason for XDMA is to handle the increased traffic resulting from the proliferation of multiple displays as well as 4k panels. If AMD continued using the old ribbon cable there simply wouldn't be enough bandwidth to drive the displays at 60Hz, so XDMA was both a necessity to prepare for the future as well as a great way to allow for smoother CrossFire at super-high resolutions. AMD claims there is no performance penalty at all to this configuration, but unfortunatley there's not really any way to run Apples to Apples testing since the Crossfire connectors are removed on the cards (though the electrical contacts are still intact). We also don't have a second R9 290X or R9 290 card to test Crossfire currently, but we hope to get a second card in soon.</p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/xdma.jpg" alt="XDMA" title="XDMA" width="650" height="362" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Only the R9 and R9 290X get the built-in XDMA engine for CrossFire over the PCIe bus. Hopefully it'll come to all of AMD's new cards in the future.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>Hit the next page for what really matters - benchmarks, power, heat, and overclocking, and our final thoughts.</em></p> <h3 style="text-align: left;"> <hr /></h3> <h3 style="text-align: left;">Testing the R9 290</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Testing the R9 290 was a straight-forward affair as we had already tested the R9 290X, and this new card doesn't have any new features though it does have one semi-notable feature removed, which is the Uber and Quiet modes. The physical switch is still there on the edge of the PCB, and it still lets you toggle between two BIOSes, but it has no effect on fan speed. On the R9 290X the switch would adjust the maximum fan speed from 40 percent in Quiet mode to 55 percent in Uber mode. The R9 290 still has dual BIOSes, and one is write-protected while the other isn't.&nbsp; Otherwise there's nothing new that needs testing on this card that doesn't exist on the R9 290X, so let's get it on.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">To start off, let’s have a look at how things compare at 2560x1600:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>2560x1600 Benchmarks</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u302/r9290_2560_1.jpg" alt="2560 Benchmarks" title="2560 Benchmarks" width="321" height="492" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves /> <w:TrackFormatting /> <w:PunctuationKerning /> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas /> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:DoNotPromoteQF /> <w:LidThemeOther>EN-US</w:LidThemeOther> 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<w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Bullet 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Number 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="10" QFormat="true" Name="Title" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Closing" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Signature" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Default Paragraph Font" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text Indent" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="List Continue 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Message Header" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="11" QFormat="true" Name="Subtitle" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Salutation" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Date" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text First Indent" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text First Indent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Note Heading" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text Indent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Body Text Indent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Block Text" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Hyperlink" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="FollowedHyperlink" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="22" QFormat="true" Name="Strong" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="20" QFormat="true" Name="Emphasis" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Document Map" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Plain Text" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="E-mail Signature" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Top of Form" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Bottom of Form" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Normal (Web)" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Acronym" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Address" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Cite" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Code" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Definition" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Keyboard" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Preformatted" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Sample" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Typewriter" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="HTML Variable" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Normal Table" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="annotation subject" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="No List" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Outline List 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Outline List 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Outline List 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Simple 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Simple 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Simple 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Classic 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Colorful 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Colorful 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Colorful 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Columns 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 7" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Grid 8" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 7" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table List 8" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table 3D effects 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table 3D effects 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table 3D effects 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Contemporary" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Elegant" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Professional" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Subtle 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Subtle 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Web 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Web 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Web 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Balloon Text" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="Table Grid" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Table Theme" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" Name="Placeholder Text" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" QFormat="true" Name="No Spacing" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" SemiHidden="true" Name="Revision" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="34" QFormat="true" Name="List Paragraph" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="29" QFormat="true" Name="Quote" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="30" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Quote" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" Name="Light Shading Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" Name="Light List Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" Name="Light Grid Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" Name="Dark List Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" Name="Colorful List Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 6" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="19" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Emphasis" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="21" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Emphasis" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="31" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Reference" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="32" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Reference" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="33" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" Name="Bibliography" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" SemiHidden="true" UnhideWhenUsed="true" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="41" Name="Plain Table 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="42" Name="Plain Table 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="43" Name="Plain Table 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="44" Name="Plain Table 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="45" Name="Plain Table 5" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="40" Name="Grid Table Light" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="46" Name="Grid Table 1 Light" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="47" Name="Grid Table 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="48" Name="Grid Table 3" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="49" Name="Grid Table 4" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="50" Name="Grid Table 5 Dark" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="51" Name="Grid Table 6 Colorful" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="52" Name="Grid Table 7 Colorful" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="46" Name="Grid Table 1 Light Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="47" Name="Grid Table 2 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="48" Name="Grid Table 3 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="49" Name="Grid Table 4 Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="50" Name="Grid Table 5 Dark Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="51" Name="Grid Table 6 Colorful Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="52" Name="Grid Table 7 Colorful Accent 1" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="46" Name="Grid Table 1 Light Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="47" Name="Grid Table 2 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="48" Name="Grid Table 3 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="49" Name="Grid Table 4 Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="50" Name="Grid Table 5 Dark Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="51" Name="Grid Table 6 Colorful Accent 2" /> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="52" Name="Grid Table 7 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{mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:8.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; line-height:107%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} --><!--[endif] --><!--[endif] --></p> <p class="MsoNormalCxSpFirst" style="line-height: 150%; text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; color: black; border: none windowtext 1.0pt; mso-border-alt: none windowtext 0in; padding: 0in; background: white;">Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Thermaltake ToughPower 1,050W PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 8. All games are run at 2560x1600 with 4X AA except for the 3DMark tests.</span></em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">At 2560x1600 the R9 290 trades blows with the more-expensive GTX 780, making it the better alternative considering it costs $100 less. The two cards were more or less equal throughout testing, though the GTX 780 was noticeably faster in Far Cry 3, which is odd considering this is an AMD title. The GTX 780 also held the upper hand in Unigine Valley, Metro, 3DMark, and Battlefield 3, with the other tests going to the R9 290. Of course, one area where the GTX 780 is a clear winner is in watts consumed and overall noise, as it was much quieter and also sucked less juice from the wall socket as well. This is nothing new, as the R9 cards run ridiculously hot, and though the R9 290 isn't annoyingly loud, it's certainly louder than the GTX 780. It also ran about 10C hotter than the GTX 780 as well. If the cards were evenly priced, we'd say the Nvidia card gets the nod due to its acoustics and power consumption, but given the $100 price disparity between the two we have to say the AMD card is the better value. Heat and power consumption don't matter that much on the desktop, and the R9 290 card is rock stable, so given its price advantage it takes the win in this category.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Now, let's look at how the R9 290 stacks up to all the cards in this class at 2560x1600.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>2560x1600 Benchmarks</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/r9_group_bench.jpg" alt="R9 Group Benchmarks" title="R9 Group Benchmarks" width="524" height="492" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; color: black; border: none windowtext 1.0pt; mso-border-alt: none windowtext 0in; padding: 0in; background: white;">Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Thermaltake ToughPower 1,050W PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 8. All games are run at 2560x1600 with 4X AA except for the 3DMark tests.</span></em></p> <p style="text-align: left;">As you can see from this chart the R9 290X is faster than the R9 290 by quite a bit in many tests, and also beats the GTX Titan in several tests as well. None of this is new information, but when we ran the R9 290X tests before we didn't have enough time to test with Nvidia's latest 331.65 driver, so this chart represents the current leader board in the GPU world. It's all the fastest cards, tested with the latest drivers. You can see the R9 290X and Titan trading blows, which is a situation Nvidia hopes to correct with its <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_announces_gtx_780_ti_launch_date_price_shield_update_and_780770_price_cuts_2013">GTX 780 Ti</a> launch later this week.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: left;">We also received some requests for a few benchmarks showing what this card can do at <strong>1080p</strong> going up against the less expensive GeForce GTX 770, so here they are:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>1080p Benchmarks</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/1080p_benchmarks_0.jpg" alt="1080p Benchmarks" title="1080p Benchmarks" width="326" height="428" /></p> <address style="text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; color: black; border: none windowtext 1.0pt; mso-border-alt: none windowtext 0in; padding: 0in; background: white;">Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Thermaltake ToughPower 1,050W PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 8. All games are run at 1920x1080 with 4X AA.</span></em></address> <p style="text-align: left;">Not much explanation is needed here as this card is the clear winner over the GTX 770 at 1080p. It is absolutly perfect at this resolution as it hits that silky-smooth 60fps target in most of the games we use for testing. Metro: Last Light barely runs at 30fps, but that's not too surprising as it can punish even the burliest GPU, and it's heavy use of PhysX favors Nvidia cards. Overall though, this card crushes it at 1080p, but costs $70 more than the GTX 770 so it's a trade-off for sure.</p> <h3 style="text-align: left;">4k Benchmarks</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Both Nvidia and AMD are pushing 4k big time with their latest GPUs, so naturally we've run some tests at this resolution. Games at 4K look absolutely amazing, but boy oh boy do you need some serious firepower to run any of the latest games at full detail. In fact, they are so demanding at this 3840x2160 resolution that we have to disable AA otherwise it is simply unplayable, even on these premium GPUs. As an aside, it's interesting to see what they can do at 4K but it's also not terribly relevant right now due to the cost of the panels. The panel we used in the <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/dream_machine_2013">Dream Machine</a> cost $3,500, and the Sharp panel we used for these tests (which we believe is the exact same unit) costs $5,300, so we seriously doubt even hardcore gamers are running these bad boys yet. It is simply too bleeding edge, unless you can run dual or three-way Titans or R9 290X cards. We never though we'd say it, but that's even too rich for our blood. Regardless, here are the numbers:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>4K Benchmarks</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u302/4k_r9_290.jpg" alt="R9 290 4K" title="R9 290 4K" width="333" height="428" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><em><span style="font-size: 10.5pt; line-height: 150%; font-family: &quot;Arial&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; color: black; border: none windowtext 1.0pt; mso-border-alt: none windowtext 0in; padding: 0in; background: white;">Best scores are bolded. Our test bed is a 3.33GHz Core i7 3960X Extreme Edition in an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard with 16GB of DDR3/1600 and a Thermaltake ToughPower 1,050W PSU. The OS is 64-bit Windows 8. All games are run at 3840x2160 with AA disabled.</span></em></p> <p style="text-align: left;">In our 4k tests there is not a clear winner as it's five wins for AMD, and four wins for Nvidia, though, once again, the fact that the R9 290 costs $100 less than the GTX 780 gives it an advantage considering their performance parity. The R9 290 is the clear winner is Crysis 3, Far Cry 3, Tomb Raider (all AMD games, by the way), Battlefield 3, and Hitman, whereas the GTX 780 is only significantly faster in Metro: Last Light, which is an Nvidia title with physics that are not friendly to AMD's cards at all. All in all though, it's an impressive showing for a $400 GPU.</p> <h3>Power, Heat, and Overclocking</h3> <p style="text-align: left;">Just like its big brother R9 290X the R9 290 ran hot, made a little bit of noise, and wasn’t able to be overclocked beyond its base "max" clock of 947MHz. AMD lists its clock speed as “up to 947MHz” and in testing that is how it goes, spinning up to 947MHz when it can, then backing off that clock a bit when temperatures get too extreme. Once it has achieved that delicate balance, it continues to throttle clock speeds up and down by 50Mhz or so under load always staying around 93 or 94C the entire time. Yes, it’s very hot, especially compared to Nvidia’s cards, which typically never get hotter than 83C or so overclocked, but the R9 290 was totally, 100 percent stable throughout testing. Once again we looped Heaven 4.0 over the weekend, and our test bed had no issues whatsoever. The R9 290 sat there at about 94C the entire weekend, and never crashed. Overclocking though, is out of the question. The card already runs hot enough to make the GPU throttle in stock trim, so it's not possible to push the card any further at its stock settings. We could have pushed the fan beyond 47 percent, sure, but it gets very loud very quickly, even at 50 percent, so we don't imagine most users will want to run this GPU at that noise level.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">The stock cooling mechanism AMD built for this card does a good job of exhausting heat however, even though it looks a bit plain, especially in comparison to the sleek coolers on the GTX 780/Titan. When the card is hovering over 90C you can still put your hand one half-inch away from it and feel almost no heat whatsoever, so it seems to exhaust well and run totally fine despite its sky-high temperatures. We know it's weird seeing a card run at 94C, and it takes some getting used to. AMD has assured us that is how the card is designed, so it should be able to run at those temps for its entire life without issues. We certainly had no issues in testing, and it was always stable, so we have to give it a passing grade. Just like with the super-hot R9 290X we cannot wait to see what aftermarket cooling mechanisms do for this card's heat output and overclocking potential. Just like how you can overclock a GTX 780 to match a Titan, we're sure the R9 290 could be pumped up to match the 290X with enough cooling. We will have to wait and see if those cards from Asus, Gigabyte, MSI, Sapphire, XFX, and others ever materialize, but we believe they will, and we're excited to check them out when they do arrive, hopefully before the holidays.</p> <h3 style="text-align: left;"><strong>Final Thoughts</strong></h3> <p style="text-align: left;">When AMD launched the R9 290X last week it was an assault on Nvidia's single-GPU dominance in the premium video card space, and it was a shot that certainly hit its target. The R9 290X exceeded the GTX 780's performance while costing $100 less, so that is a clear-cut victory for AMD. Undaunted, Nvidia responded by dropping the GTX 780's price down to $500, essentially wiping out the R9 290X's advantage in that matchup. The Titan is still threatened by the R9 290X though, but Nvidia doesn't seem to bothered by it, so for now it's leaving the Titan alone. Now that we have the R9 290 though, the GTX 780 is once again under some serious pressure from AMD because the 290 is just as fast, and once again, costs $100 less. If you have $400 burning a hole in your pocket, the R9 290 is clearly the fastest GPU at that price point. We didn't test it against the GTX 770 simply because that is a card we test at 1080p, and the R9 290 is a 2560x1600 card, but it would certainly be faster than the GTX 770 as well since it can beat a GTX 780 in many tests.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Overall, the R9 290 is another excellent GPU from AMD with a tremendous price-to-performance ratio that Nvidia simlply cannot match at this time. It definitely runs hotter and makes a bit more noise than it's next of kin on the green team, but for $100 we would bet most consumers would be willing to put on some headphones. Plus it's almost winter, so the heat will probably come in handy for a lot of folks. On a serious note though, we did not find the heat or noise created by this card to be a problem, so don't let it scare you off.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">From here we wait for two events to occur - the GTX 780 Ti launch later this week, which Nvidia is hoping will allow it to once again wrest control of the trophy for "fastest single GPU" since the R9 290X has muddied the waters a bit and put its Titan in peril, at least when it comes to gaming. Also, it's possible that the R9 290 launch will cause Nvidia to lower the price on the GTX 780 even further to be more competitive. As always we will have to wait and see what happens.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">Finally, there are still unknowns in both camps at this time. AMD has its <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_r9_290x_will_be_much_faster_titan_battlefield_4">Mantle</a> API and <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/everything_you_wanted_know_about_amd%E2%80%99s_new_trueaudio_technology_2013">TrueAudio</a>, both of which are untested at this time. Nvidia has <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_announces_nvidia_g-sync_gamestream_and_much_more">G-Sync monitors</a>, ShadowPlay, its <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidias_geforce_gtx_holiday_bundles_feature_free_games_and_shield_discounts2013">Holiday Game Bundle</a>, GameStream/Shield, and of course, better acoustics and lower overall temps due to Kepler's efficiency. We've yet to test frame pacing using AMD's new XDMA setup, but reports indicate it's finally as good if not better than Nvidia's SLI at this time. Regardless, both AMD and Nvidia have very unique and exclusive features at this time, making the choice between one camp or the other more difficult than it's ever been.</p> <p style="text-align: left;">All in all, we can't remember a time when competition has been as white hot and fierce between AMD and Nvidia as it is right now. AMD has really come out swinging for the fences with its Hawaii GPUs, which have already resulted in both price drops and a new GPU on the way in the form of the GTX 780 Ti. Whether or not today's launch of the R9 290 results in even more price cuts or GPU offspring remains to be seen, but one thing is certain -- it's an awesome time to be in the GPU market.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/amd_radeon_r9_290_benchmarks#comments amd r9 290 radeon Video cards Reviews Videocards Tue, 05 Nov 2013 06:17:58 +0000 Josh Norem 26610 at http://www.maximumpc.com AVADirect Mini Cube Gaming PC Review http://www.maximumpc.com/avadirect_mini_cube_gaming_pc_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Just call it ‘The Fridge’</h3> <p>Naming a PC isn’t an easy task. It’s hard enough when you’re talking about your personal PC (Betsy, Svetlana, or Jabba work well), but when you’re a company selling a new model, Marketing 101 says the name should imbue magic and convince consumers to pony up.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ava_13708_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ava_13708_small.jpg" alt="Though capable and reasonably priced, this medium form factor is eclipsed by smaller, faster, and cheaper machines." title="AVADirect Mini Cube Gaming PC" width="620" height="582" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Though capable and reasonably priced, this medium form factor is eclipsed by smaller, faster, and cheaper machines.</strong></p> <p>We’re guessing AVADirect didn’t take that class, as its new custom mini-cube gaming PC is apparently named Mini Cube Gaming PC. The truth is, AVADirect probably doesn’t give a damn about the name because frankly, who cares? Maybe “5S” or “S IV” works on some people, but on a custom PC where you pick out the parts yourself, it’s probably far less pressing.</p> <p>Around the office, we’ve taken to calling this handsome SFF machine “The Fridge,” not necessarily because of its size, but because of its Frigidaire-like aesthetic. Sure, it would have been cool if the optical drive shared the same brushed-aluminum surface, but it still matches the black accents elsewhere on the case. While there’s no question that this is a small form factor rig, compared to the micro-towers we’ve seen lately, it’s pretty big. It’s more than double the width of the Falcon Northwest Tiki, and while slightly shorter than the CyberPower Hadron we reviewed in February, it’s about three inches wider than that machine.</p> <p>That size increase gives it more capability. While most micro-towers use SFX or 1U PSUs, The Fridge uses a standard 760W Seasonic ATX PSU. Inside, you’ll also find a liquid-cooled Core i7-4770K overclocked to 4.2GHz, 16GB of Kingston DDR3/1600, two Kingston 120GB HyperX SSDs in RAID 0, a 2TB WD HDD, an MSI Z87 Mini-ITX board, and an Asus GeForce GTX 780 card.</p> <p>Against our zero-point system, the AVADirect represents well in the non-heavily multithreaded tasks but, not surprisingly, it gets left behind in all other tests by the ZP’s six-core Core i7-3930K part clicking along at 3.8GHz. That includes gaming tests, but not by the margin you would expect from the zero-point’s GeForce GTX 690.</p> <p>The more important question is how The Fridge compares with the SFF/micro-tower crowd. Not too shabby. The bad mutha of the group continues to be Falcon Northwest’s Tiki, with its Haswell part overclocked to 4.7GHz and a GeForce Titan. Indeed, the Tiki still stands as the fastest micro-tower we’ve ever tested, and the fact that it’s held onto that title well into the new year demonstrates how aggressively Falcon went for broke with this model. Of course, that aggression comes at a price, with the Tiki hitting the $4,400 mark. At $2,583, AVADirect can pull the old, “You can buy our system, play all of your games, and still have enough money to buy two of the upcoming cheap 4K panels” routine.</p> <p>Normally, that routine would sway us, because like most folks, we can see sacrificing a little performance for a new monitor, keyboard, mouse, and new suit and shoes, too. But then there’s CyberPower PC’s Hadron Hydro 300, which costs $300 less than the AVADirect. It almost mirrors the parts in the AVADirect except for the HDD. The Hadron also packs custom liquid-cooling for its CPU and GPU, which, while the chassis gets a tad warm, helps the rig run extremely quietly and gives it a slight performance edge. The AVADirect box is louder and under heavy loads emits a low-frequency large-fan buzz.</p> <p>That leaves the AVADirect in a tough spot. It’s slower than the Tiki and more expensive than the Hadron. Yes, it’s got an off-the-shelf PSU, but we’re not sure that’s worth the sacrifice in size. Yes, it’s a striking-looking case with its brushed-steel/aluminum finish, but maybe the sun is just finally starting to set on the medium form factor.</p> <p><strong>$2,584,</strong> <a href="http://www.avadirect.com/">www.avadirect.com</a></p> <p><em>Note: This article was originally featured in our March issue of the magazine.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/avadirect_mini_cube_gaming_pc_review_2014#comments AVADirect Mini Cube Hardware March issues 2014 maximum pc Reviews Systems Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:11:59 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28059 at http://www.maximumpc.com Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X Review http://www.maximumpc.com/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="http://www.sapphiretech.com/landing.aspx?lid=1">www.sapphiretech.com</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="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;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> http://www.maximumpc.com/sapphire_tri-x_radeon_r9_290x_review#comments 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 http://www.maximumpc.com Toshiba Qosmio X75 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/toshiba_qosmio_x75_review_2014 <!--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="http://www.toshiba.com/tai/">www.toshiba.com</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="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;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> http://www.maximumpc.com/toshiba_qosmio_x75_review_2014#comments 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 http://www.maximumpc.com WD Black2 SSD+HDD Review http://www.maximumpc.com/wd_black2_ssdhdd_review_2014 <!--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="http://www.wdc.com/en/">www.wd.com</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="http://shop.futureus.com/tech/maximum-pc.html?sourcekey=WSMAXFTB" target="_blank">the magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/wd_black2_ssdhdd_review_2014#comments Hardware HDD March issues 2014 Review ssd WD Black2 Reviews SSD Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:56:43 +0000 Josh Norem 27973 at http://www.maximumpc.com Antec Kuhler H20 950 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/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="http://store.antec.com/">www.antec.com</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="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;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> http://www.maximumpc.com/antec_kuhler_h20_950_review#comments 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 http://www.maximumpc.com Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition Review http://www.maximumpc.com/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="http://www.gigabyte.us/">www.gigabyte.us</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="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;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> http://www.maximumpc.com/gigabyte_geforce_gtx_780_ghz_edition_review#comments 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 http://www.maximumpc.com Neat Company NeatConnect Review http://www.maximumpc.com/neat_company_neatconnect_review_2014 <!--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="http://www.neat.com/">www.neat.com</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="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;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> http://www.maximumpc.com/neat_company_neatconnect_review_2014#comments Hardware March issues 2014 Neat Connect Review scanners Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:48:03 +0000 Clark Crisp 27943 at http://www.maximumpc.com NZXT Source 530 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/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="http://www.nzxt.com/">www.nzxt.com</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="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;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> http://www.maximumpc.com/nzxt_source_530_review#comments Hardware maximum pc NZXT Source 530 Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:50:30 +0000 David Murphy 27879 at http://www.maximumpc.com iBuypower Battalion M1771-2 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/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="http://www.ibuypower.com/">www.ibuypower.com</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="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;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> http://www.maximumpc.com/ibuypower_battalion_m1771-2_review#comments 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 http://www.maximumpc.com Asus Mars 760 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/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="http://rog.asus.com/">http://rog.asus.com</a></p> <p><em>Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the<a title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a>.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_mars_760_review#comments Asus Mars 760 Hardware maximum pc Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:48:47 +0000 Josh Norem 27846 at http://www.maximumpc.com CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/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="http://www.cypberpowerpc.com/">www.cypberpowerpc.com</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="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;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> http://www.maximumpc.com/cyberpower_hadron_hydro_300_review#comments 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 http://www.maximumpc.com Asrock M8 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/asrock_m8_review_2014 <!--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="http://www.asrock.com/">www.asrock.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the magazine.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/asrock_m8_review_2014#comments Asrock M8 February issues 2014 Hardware maximum pc Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:45:09 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27830 at http://www.maximumpc.com Origin PC Genesis Overview (Video) http://www.maximumpc.com/origin_pc_genesis_overview_video_2014 <!--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="//www.youtube.com/embed/Rr2pkO2wGE8" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/origin_pc_genesis_overview_video_2014#comments 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 http://www.maximumpc.com The Walking Dead: Season Two Review http://www.maximumpc.com/walking_dead_season_two_review_2014 <!--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="http://www.telltalegames.com/">www.telltalegames.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/walking_dead_season_two_review_2014#comments 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 http://www.maximumpc.com