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 HP Omen Review http://www.maximumpc.com/hp_omen_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A good sign</h3> <p>The word “omen” generally connotes bad juju for most people. For some longtime PC enthusiasts, however, it evokes fond memories of Voodoo PC’s old beautiful and powerful desktops. While HP isn’t bringing Voodoo PC back from the grave, it hopes to pay homage to the Omen namesake by rebirthing it as a modern gaming notebook.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u99720/hpomen.jpg" alt="HP Omen press shot" width="492" height="366" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Omen isn't the most powerful notebook, but it's one of the most polished.</strong></p> <p>Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the 15.6-inch HP Omen is one sleek-looking laptop, with its machined-aluminum chassis. The anodized black finish coupled with its thin 0.8 inch body gives the notebook some added sex appeal. It’s also really portable for its class, weighing four pounds, 11.9 ounces.</p> <p>While we were a little dismayed to hear that it uses a 1080p monitor, something we’ve seen dozens of times over, this isn’t some mediocre display. It uses an IPS panel that features a 72 percent color gamut, which provides beautiful, saturated colors. It also sports a touchscreen, which makes it the first gaming laptop we’ve reviewed that offers one.</p> <p>We were generally pleased with the keyboard, which offers seven customizable color zones that you can tweak using HP’s Omen Control Panel software. The keys themselves offer a satisfying amount of travel and feel quite tactile, as a result. You also get a column of six macro keys on the left side of the keyboard, which is rare to see in a notebook of this size. We weren’t enamored of the Omen’s trackpad, however. Measuring 5.5 inches across, it’s so wide that we often found our resting fingers interfering with our swiping gestures.</p> <p>On opposite ends of the trackpad are a pair of LED lights that pulsate with the sound of your audio. It’s a unique touch that gives the notebook added flair. The speakers themselves are quite good and offer decent volume firepower. Despite being licensed by Beats Audio, a company known for its bass-heavy emphasis, the audio here is balanced.</p> <p>Unlike the sexy chassis, the specs of the laptop aren’t super fancy. It uses a 2.5GHz i7-4710HQ processor for its CPU. For its graphics card, HP went with the GeForce GTX 860M, which is the de facto GPU for thin gaming notebooks. The base model comes with two gigs of GDDR5 VRAM, but ours included four. In regard to system RAM, configs starts out at 8GB, which is fine in most instances, but our maxed-out unit came with 16GB.</p> <p>CPU performance was pretty average, performing ever so slightly faster than our Alienware 14 zero-point’s 2.4GHz i7-4700MQ processor. In GPU perf, we saw respectable gains between 20 and 60 percent. In short, our graphics tests reminds us that the 860M is a midrange card. It will run the majority of modern games at high settings with smooth framerates, but don’t expect to max out games here.</p> <p>While the laptop’s performance didn’t blow us away, neither did its fans (pun intended). The Omen isn’t silent, but it’s very reasonable under load. We’d go so far as to say HP found the perfect balance between performance and acoustics. The laptop is able to keep its cool by using dual fans that pull in cool air from the bottom, which it expels through the back. A benefit of this design is that gamers won’t have to worry about warm wrists.</p> <p>When it came to battery life, the laptop was pretty average. The first time we ran our video-rundown test, the notebook lasted a mediocre 172 minutes. When we turned off all the fancy LED lights, we got an extra half hour. Our biggest concern with the Omen really pertained to storage. While we love the fact that it uses the faster M.2 PCIe standard, we’re a little put off that it doesn’t support traditional hard drives. This means you’re topped off at 512GBs. Luckily, the drive is really fast, and allowed the notebook to boot up in 11 seconds.</p> <p>The Omen may not be the most powerful notebook out there, but it’s extremely polished and well-designed. Everything from its looks, portability, and thermals are top notch. While our decked-out unit cost $2,100, if you’re looking for a more affordable configuration, we recommend going with the $1,800 model, which includes a 512GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, and an 860M with 2GB of VRAM. It’s still a pretty good Omen.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/hp_omen_review_2014#comments Gaming Hardware HP Omen laptop notebook Thin voodoo pc Gaming Reviews Notebooks Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:45:39 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29111 at http://www.maximumpc.com Logitech K830 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/logitech_k830_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><p><span style="font-family: Calibri;"><span style="font-size: 15px; line-height: 22px;"><strong>A premium HTPC keyboard with backlighting</strong></span></span></p> <p>People don’t just buy desktop keyboards, they have long-term monogamous relationships with them that last years. Hell, some editors we know just celebrated their fifth-year anniversary with their desktop keyboard (the traditional gift is wood, by the way).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u187432/keyboard.jpg" style="text-align: center;" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The K830 is good but suffers from mushy-key syndrome.</strong></p> <p>It’s not that way with HTPC keyboards, though. No, HTPC keyboards are more like those “business” trips to Thailand. Just look at us for example: Over the last few years, we’ve not only stepped out with an assortment of no-name Bluetooth keyboards, we’ve also had flings with Logitech’s DiNovo Edge, DiNovo Mini, the K400, and even the K700 from Google and Logitech’s ill-fated Google TV product.</p> <p>The latest so-so pretty keyboard to catch our eye is Logitech’s K830. And what a beauty she is. Slightly wider than the K400 at 14.5-inches, the K830 has a feeling of heft and quality that the budget K400 lacks. The sexiest aspect of the K830 is its subtle white LED backlighting. The lighting has four steps: off, low, medium, and high, and once switched on, the volume and mute buttons also light up. Logitech also did the right thing by also illuminating all the characters of the keyboard. A lot of far more expensive gaming keyboards fail to do this, forcing you to guess which shifted keys to press for $#%^, among others.</p> <p>Also much improved is the trackpad, which has a luxuriously smooth surface and is slightly larger than the K400’s. Although we will say if Logitech had pushed the trackpad further into the corner of the keyboard, it would be easier to use the trackpad one-handed, as with the K700. In Logitech’s defense, the K830 is also a little too heavy to one-hand it for long sessions.</p> <p>With the power consumption of the LED, the possibility of running off of AAA alkalines is out—instead, Logitech uses a lithium ion, which charges through micro-USB. Logitech says that gives the K830 about ten days of runtime. That’s pretty poor when you consider that the K400 is rated to run for 12 months off of a pair of AAA’s. Realistically, though, you’re not going to be using the keyboard to type for ten days straight, so we’d expect more along the lines of a month or more, depending on the back-light levels.</p> <p>That brings us to us to the biggest ding against the K830—the actual keys. While the keyboard looks drop-dead sexy next to the K400 and K700, the keys are down-right mushy and just no fun to type on. Yes, you typically won’t be typing more than “Maximum PC No BS podcast” in the search bar of Youtube, but it’s a bit of a heart-breaker that the K830’s key action is its worst aspect. If you’re looking for hot keyboard action for typing-heavy duties, we’d recommend scrounging up an old K700, honestly. We will laude one thing Logitech did, though: The function keys have dedicated functions for such things as launching the browser and search rather than the function + F8 you’d typically find.</p> <p>One other thing to note, the K830 uses Logitech’s Unify USB dongles to connect to devices. Unify lets you run multiple devices simultaneously, which is great. What’s not great are so-called “smart” televisions that don’t support standard USB HID devices. We tried, for example, to hook the K830 up to a new Sony 65-inch Bravia 65W850A and had no joy despite the three USB ports on the set. So, if you intend to use the keyboard with your “smart” TV, we recommend you read the manual first.</p> <p>The last hang-up is the price. At $99, the K830 is far more expensive than its current siblings. But we will say one thing, it certainly looks better and feels better than them, too. It’s also not that expensive when compared to the Dinovo Edge, which sold for $200 minimum when new. Still, it’s not perfect. If Logitech could just combine the keys of the K700, move the trackpad a little farther into the corner, and shed a few grams, this could be the ultimate HTPC keyboard. As is, it’s good but not great.</p> <p>$99, <a href="http://www.logitech.com" target="_self">www.logitech.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/logitech_k830_review_2014#comments htpc keyboard Logitech K830 wireless Keyboards Reviews Wed, 17 Dec 2014 20:55:39 +0000 The Maximum PC Staff 28916 at http://www.maximumpc.com Asus ROG G750 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_rog_g750_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Real desktop gaming... from a notebook</h3> <p>Looking at the outside of the 2014 model of Asus’ 17-inch ROG G750 gaming notebook, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything new. But, like mama used to say, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.</p> <p>The real heart of the G750 is the GTX 880M, and it’s a beast. It has 4GB of GDDR5, a GPU running at 954MHz, and the memory clocks in at 1,250MHz. According to our graphics benchmarks, it will run anywhere from 50 percent to 120 percent as fast as our Alienware 14 zero-point’s GTX 765M. While you most likely won’t be able to run the most graphically demanding games maxed-out with the card (that’s what SLI and desktop GPUs are for), we were able to play Metro: Last Light on “very high” settings with frame rates around 40 FPS.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.rev_asusg750.1_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.rev_asusg750.1_small.jpg" alt="The ROG G750 is eerily quiet under load. " title="Asus ROG G750" width="620" height="515" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The ROG G750 is eerily quiet under load. </strong></p> <p>Even though the new GPU is really the star here, the other components are anything but shabby. The laptop’s armed with Intel’s high-end Core i7-4700HQ mobile CPU clocked at 2.4GHz, two 256GB SSDs in RAID 0, and 32 friggin’ gigabytes of RAM.&nbsp; That much RAM is really overkill for gaming, so its inclusion is puzzling.</p> <p>In our CPU tests, it performed nearly identically to our AW14, which has a very similarly clocked i7-4700MQ CPU, only slipping by 4 percent in our single/multi-threaded Stitch test. We did a quick-and-dirty storage test using CrystalDiskMark, with the G750 coming in 46 percent faster in reads and 54 percent in writes.</p> <p>The laptop is also armed with a big 8-cell lithium-ion battery. In our video run-down test, it lasted an impressive 283 minutes, trumping our Alienware’s already long-lasting offering by 20 percent. In conjunction with its big battery is “Nvidia Battery Boost,” which is an exclusive feature to 800M-series GPUs. The idea behind the new GeForce Experience technology is that it puts a hard limit on frame rate to optimize for battery life. Nvidia is claiming up to 2x battery life when gaming with this feature. To test it out, we continuously looped our Metro: Last Light benchmark until the G750 keeled over. We realize that this stress test will have the GPU sweating bullets at all times, but it should at the very least represent a worst-case gaming scenario. With Battery Boost disabled, our laptop lasted 1 hour and 12 minutes. With it enabled, it lasted a whopping 4 minutes longer. That’s not exactly a great showcase for Nvidia’s new technology, but Asus tells us that the laptop was already designed to throttle the GPU to optimize for battery life, similarly to how Nvidia Battery Boost handles it. So for now, the jury is still out on Battery Boost.</p> <p>In terms of appearances, the chassis reminded us a lot of the tumbler Batmobile from the Dark Knight movies, with its matte-black finish and sharp triangular edges. It’s also quite tankish in size and weight, measuring 16.3x12.7x2.2 inches and weighing 11 pounds, 8.4oz. One happy feature of the unit is that its dual-exhaust design emits heat out of the back of the chassis, as opposed to venting through the sides and cooking your wrists as with most laptops. But more impressive is that the laptop never got loud, even under our heavy-duty benchmarks. It was frighteningly quiet. This is partly due to the large chassis and partly because the CPU and GPU each have independent dedicated cooling. Our one complaint about the chassis is that it’s not very serviceable, as Asus has opted to block off the screw holes with rubber standoffs.</p> <p>As great as the G570’s internal specs are, the laptop unfortunately sports a TN panel. Thankfully, it’s one of the best TN panels we’ve seen and offers respectable viewing angles. On the audio front, the notebook’s 2.1 speakers are loud and crisp. The laptop’s keyboard gets the job done and features subtle white LED backlighting. Its large 5-inch trackpad is also competent, has two dedicated buttons, and supports multitouch gestures like two-finger scrolling. We were disappointed that there’s no option to reverse the trackpad’s scrolling direction, as some of us prefer to invert the controls.</p> <p>These relatively minor caveats aside, Asus has constructed a mighty fine laptop: It’s incredibly powerful, has relatively good battery life, and is equipped with awesome components all around.&nbsp; It isn’t perfect, however, as we personally think Asus went overboard with 32GB of RAM and would have rather seen that investment spent on an IPS panel. If you don’t mind downgrading from two 256GB SSDs to two 128GB SSDs and opting for a DVD drive instead of a Blu-ray player, we actually recommend going with the 24GB RAM model to save $500. That configuration is especially Kick Ass.</p> <p><strong>$3,000, </strong><a href="http://www.asus.com/pk/">www.asus.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_rog_g750_review#comments 880m asus rog g750 Business Notebooks gaming laptop Hardware Hardware June issues 2014 laptops Reviews Notebooks Wed, 24 Sep 2014 15:57:38 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28599 at http://www.maximumpc.com Best Keyboard http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/best_keyboard_2013 <!--paging_filter--><h3>UPDATE: We've added six more keyboards to our best keyboard roundup</h3> <p>If you’re a gamer, you can probably identify a few points in time when you realized something important about your control setup that made you better at the game. When you discovered that putting your left hand on WASD gives you more options than putting it on the arrow keys, for instance, or when you realized that your crappy optical mouse was actually holding you back in shooters. These kinds of peripheral epiphanies don’t happen every day, but it might be just about time for you to have a new one. It might be time for you to realize that your keyboard is holding you back.</p> <h3 style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u152332/keyboard_opener13195_small_1.jpg" alt="best keyboard" title="best keyboard" width="620" height="480" /></h3> <p>We’re giving you some credit here—we’re not talking about making the upgrade from a $6 keyboard you got at the grocery store. No, we’re talking about making the upgrade from a gaming keyboard to an amazing gaming keyboard. Going from entry level or midrange to top-of-the-line.</p> <p>We looked around and picked out some of the <strong>best keyboards</strong> we could find. To compare them, we put them through our usual battery of real-world testing, including gaming and typing, and compared their features and overall feel. Because these keyboards come attached to some pretty heavy price tags, we made sure to give them extra scrutiny. We know that minor inconveniences that might fly on a cheap keyboard become a lot more galling when you’ve paid $150 for the privilege of suffering them, and our verdicts reflect this.</p> <p>Ready to make the upgrade to serious typing hardware? Then let’s go!</p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">CMStorm Mech</h4> <p><strong>CMStorm looks to get a handle on the high-end mechanical keyboard market<br /></strong></p> <p>The CMStorm Mech is, first of all, a great-looking keyboard. Most of the top of the keyboard is wrapped in a subtly etched aluminum plate, and the board’s geometric, asymmetrical silhouette is more imaginative than most. The aluminum plate can be removed for easy cleaning, which is a nice feature, but the seven hex screws that make removal possible mar the Mech’s otherwise-excellent aesthetics.</p> <p>Despite the Mech’s metal-clad looks, it’s not the sturdiest keyboard in this roundup. The back side of the board, and particularly the wrist rest, are made of hollow plastic that sometimes flexes and creaks under pressure. It also features a large handle on one side, and a detachable USB cable. These would be handy features for someone who takes their keyboard on the road frequently, but it’s not otherwise an especially portable keyboard. It would be nice if the handle were removable or retractable, because it adds an extra two or three inches to the Mech’s already substantial width.</p> <p>The software support is simple and easy to use. It allows you to customize the five dedicated macro keys, or to rebind any other key on the board, and includes a flexible macro editor.</p> <p>Actual typing and gaming performance is top-notch and virtually identical to the other mechanical gaming keyboards on the market. Fans of any variety of Cherry MX switch will be able to find a Mech that’s right for them—CMStorm offers the keyboard with Red, Blue, or Brown switches.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13204_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13204_small.jpg" alt="The Mech is a big mechanical keyboard, but isn't quite as sturdy as it looks." title="CMStorm Mech" width="620" height="425" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Mech is a big mechanical keyboard, but isn't quite as sturdy as it looks.</strong></p> <p>In all, the Mech is a solid gaming keyboard, but doesn’t quite live up to its top-of-the-line $160 price tag.</p> <p><strong>CMStorm Mech</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$160,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cmstorm.com/ " target="_blank">www.cmstorm.com</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Mad Catz STRIKE 3</h4> <p><strong>Is a less-extravagant Strike a better deal?</strong></p> <p>The Strike 3 is the least expensive in Mad Catz’s line of high-end gaming keyboards, but it’s by no means a piece of budget hardware. If the $100 price tag doesn’t convince you of that, seeing the Strike 3 in person will.</p> <p>It’s designed to look like the higher-end Strike boards, which can be split into two parts and rearranged, but this one doesn’t actually come apart. Build quality is good overall, with a removable wrist-rest and a pair of USB passthroughs. The board comes in glossy black, red, and white, and features customizable backlighting.</p> <p>The Strike 3 isn’t mechanical, which weakens the credibility of this $100 keyboard, but Mad Catz hasn’t ignored key quality altogether. The dome switches on the Strike 3 are some of the best we’ve felt, with a crisp actuation that feels almost, but not quite, as good as a mechanical model. They definitely feel better than any of the other non-mechanical boards we tested for this roundup.</p> <p>The Strike 3 features five dedicated macro keys on the right side of the board, and seven macro buttons at the top-left. The left-side buttons, unfortunately, are pretty abysmal. They’re tiny, far away from the home row, and strangely wiggly in their sockets—we found it virtually impossible to hit a particular one without looking.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13217_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13217_small.jpg" alt="The seam down the middle of the Strike 3 is just for show—this keyboard's only one piece." title="Mad Catz STRIKE 3" width="620" height="461" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The seam down the middle of the Strike 3 is just for show—this keyboard's only one piece.</strong></p> <p>The Strike 3 is a good keyboard, but we would generally recommend a mechanical board if you’re looking to spend this much. If you personally prefer non-mechanical switches, however, this would be an excellent choice.</p> <p><strong>Mad Catz Strike 3</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100, <a title="mad catz" href="http://www.madcatz.com" target="_blank">www.madcatz.com</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Click the next page for more keyboard reviews.</h4> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;"> <hr />SteelSeries Apex</h4> <p><strong>All the keys you could want, and then some</strong></p> <p>Sometimes, more is more. That seems to be the guiding principle behind the SteelSeries Apex keyboard, which comes with about as many keys as we’ve ever seen on a gaming keyboard. In addition to the standard full QWERTY layout with number pad, the Apex includes 10 macro keys and four layer keys down the left side, 12 more macro keys above the function row, and six dedicated media buttons along the right side. Even the arrow pad gets two extra diagonal keys. SteelSeries doesn’t advertise the Apex as an MMO keyboard specifically, but it’s hard to imagine what other application could make use of this abundance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13209_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13209_small_1.jpg" alt="You can prop the Apex up in the back by replacing two of it's rubber feet." title="SteelSeries Apex" width="620" height="448" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You can prop the Apex up in the back by replacing two of it's rubber feet.</strong></p> <p>Despite its absurd inventory of keys, the Apex doesn’t feel cluttered at all, and in fact looks quite nice. With its built-in wrist rest the board is pretty enormous, but the low-profile keys and customizable sectioned backlighting keep it looking sleek. The build quality is good, though not quite as hardy as SteelSeries’s mechanical keyboards. The Apex includes a pair of USB passthroughs, and allows for some angle customization with a pair of swappable rear feet.</p> <p>Our only real issue with the Apex is that it doesn’t use mechanical keys, and even compared to other dome-switch keyboards in this roundup, like the Strike 3, the Apex’s keys feel distinctly mushy. If it had better key performance, it would be a strong contender for best keyboard in this price range. As it is, we’d recommend it highly to those who prioritize lots of macro keys and great design over maximum key responsiveness.</p> <p><strong>SteelSeries Apex</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100,&nbsp;<a href="http://steelseries.com/ " target="_blank">www.steelseries.com</a></strong></p> <h3>What We Look for in a Keyboard</h3> <p>When we review a keyboard, we look at it on three levels. The first and most important level is basic user experience—how the board feels when you use it. This includes factors like key quality and responsiveness, layout, and build quality. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the way you use your keyboard comes down to those standard QWERTY keys, so we’ll take a great-feeling keyboard over a flimsy one with a zillion features any day. We would also consider a keyboard without enough anti-ghosting/rollover for gaming usage to have failed on this basic level.</p> <p>Second, we examine the board on the level of practical, value-adding features. These are what make a gaming keyboard different from a more standard keyboard, and include things like macro keys, profiles, USB/audio passthroughs, the ability to rebind any key, and media controls. Of course, there’s no standard rule for what’s “practical” and what’s not, and we take into consideration that, for instance, the first five macro keys add a lot more value to the keyboard than macro keys number 15-20. This is also the level where we consider the keyboard’s software support.</p> <p>Finally, we look at the keyboard’s less-essential features, and what they bring to the table. Here you’ll see us talk about things like backlighting, interchangeable keycaps, and paint jobs. These are frequently surface features, designed more for showing off to other gamers than for your own use.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/81173948_copy_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/81173948_copy_small.jpg" width="620" height="412" /></a></p> <p>All of this isn’t to say that we think keyboards should be boring, just that it’s important they have their priorities straight. Awesome backlighting can be a great addition to a gaming keyboard, but boards with tons of bells and whistles built into a crappy or just mediocre foundation are distressingly common.</p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Roccat Ryos Mk Pro</h4> <p><strong>This flashy keyboard is more than just looks</strong></p> <p>Build quality on the Ryos MK Pro is outstanding. It’s all plastic, as far as we can see, but is incredibly weighty and rugged-feeling. The surface is treated with a glossy dot-matrix pattern that gives the Ryos a high-class look without leaving it as vulnerable to fingerprints as a pure-gloss keyboard. Like the last Roccat keyboard we tested, the Ryos has a non-removable integrated wrist rest. It’s comfortable (particularly with the back of the board elevated on sturdy-feeling supports), but makes the keyboard take up an absolutely massive amount of desk space.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13210_smalll_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13210_smalll.jpg" alt="LEDs in each key in the Roccat MK Pro can light up and blink independently." title="Roccat Ryos Mk Pro" width="620" height="451" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>LEDs in each key in the Roccat MK Pro can light up and blink independently.</strong></p> <p>The software support for the Ryos is fine, though not outstanding. The interface is a little cluttered and at times unresponsive, but it gets the job done, allowing you to customize lighting, macros, and key binding for each profile.</p> <p>A lot of keyboards have backlighting these days, but this is the first one we’ve tested that has completely independent lights behind every key. The color can’t be changed, but you can choose which keys should light up and which shouldn’t for each profile. Better still, the Ryos MK Pro comes with a few special lighting effects, which can cause pressed keys to briefly light up, or even to send out a ripple of light across the whole keyboard. It’s simultaneously the most superfluous and most fun new feature we’ve seen in a keyboard in years.</p> <p>It’s hard to say that the Ryos Mk Pro completely justifies the $170 asking price—that’s quite a bit more money than other very good mechanical keyboards—but it at least comes close.</p> <p><strong>Roccat Ryos MK Pro</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$170,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.roccat.org/ " target="_blank">www.roccat.org</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Click the next page to read about the Gigabyte K7 review and more.</h4> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;"> <hr />Gigabyte Force K7</h4> <p><strong>A budget-friendly board that’s light on features</strong></p> <p>With a $50 MSRP, the Force K7 targets the budget-minded consumer, but still hovers comfortably above the bottom of the barrel. Any keyboard involves compromises, but with the K7, there just might be too many.</p> <p>The K7 advertises “extreme short actuation distance” for its keys, which are built on laptop-style scissor switches. Keyboard feel is a matter of personal preference, of course, but for gaming we’ve never been very fond of scissor switches, which offer almost no tactile feedback. The key layout on the K7 is standard, though it uses the half-width backspace key and double-decker enter key configuration that’s less commonly seen in gaming keyboards and makes touch typing a bit more difficult.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13214_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13214_small.jpg" alt="LEDs in each key in the Roccat MK Pro can light up and blink independently." title="Gigabyte Force K7" width="620" height="454" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Force K7 has a low profile, with laptop-style scissor-switch keys.</strong></p> <p>Build quality on the K7 is generally good—it’s sturdy and feels heavy on the desk. Our review unit did, however, come with an extra 0 key instead of the hyphen key, which raises some questions about quality assurance.</p> <p>If anything, the K7 is notable for its lack of gaming-specific features. It has no macro keys, no profiles, no ability to rebind keys, no USB passthroughs—none of the things that identify a keyboard as made especially for gaming. The only extra features the board does include are underwhelming three-color backlighting and a pair of thumbwheels, which can only be used to control volume and backlight intensity.</p> <p>There are no glaring problems with the K7, but without a clear performance advantage, there’s nothing to recommend this board over one of the low-end Logitech or Microsoft keyboards, which are similarly priced and offer a better set of features.</p> <p><strong>Gigabyte Force K7</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$50,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.gigabyte.us/ " target="_blank">www.gigabyte.us</a></strong></p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Corsair Raptor K50</h4> <p><strong>The Cadillac of non-mechanical keyboards</strong></p> <p>The Corsair Raptor K50 is a beautifully designed board, borrowing the floating-keys design of the more expensive Vengeance boards, with just a hint of brushed aluminum along the top edge. The look is rounded out with high-quality customizable key lighting that shines through the keycaps, without leaking out around the edges of the keys. Build quality is second-to-none, and as usual, the raised-key design makes it easy to keep crumbs from accumulating under the keycaps.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The K50 is nicely feature-packed, with a USB passthrough, media keys, a large metal volume wheel, and, oh yeah, like a million macro keys. Well, 18, anyway, all in one huge bank at the left, along with dedicated buttons for switching between three macro layers and recording them on the fly. That number might be bordering on the too-many-to-actually-use zone, but some gamers might find a use for them all, and on-the-fly recording is a feature we wish more boards had. The software for the K50 works well, and onboard storage allows you to use your profiles on any computer.&nbsp;<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-13212_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-13212_small.jpg" alt="If you're the kind of gamer who needs an unhealthy number of macro keys, the Raptor K50 is for you." title="Corsair Raptor K50" width="620" height="413" /></a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>If you're the kind of gamer who needs an unhealthy number of macro keys, the Raptor K50 is for you.<br /></strong></p> <p>We like the K50 a lot, but—at the risk of sounding like a broken record—for most users we wouldn’t recommend a non-mechanical $100 board. Our recommendation at this price range would be to get a mechanical board with slightly fewer features, or to jump up an extra $30 and get a similarly feature-packed mechanical board, such as Corsair’s own Vengeance K70 or K90.</p> <p><strong>Corsair Raptor K50</strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$100,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.corsair.com/ " target="_blank">www.corsair.com</a></strong></p> <p>Click the next page to read about some of the older mechanical keyboards we've reviewed such as the Razer Deathstalker Ultimate and more.</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>Razer Deathstalker Ultimate</h4> <p><strong>Fun to look at, less fun to use</strong></p> <p>The Razer Deathstalker is really a thing to behold. The gaming keyboard is thin, sleek, and nicely designed with tri-color glowing keys, but nothing draws your attention like the “Switchblade” user interface, borrowed from the <a title="razer blade" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/razer_blade_review2012" target="_blank">Razer Blade</a> gaming laptop.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227183_small_3.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227183_small_2.jpg" alt="Instead of a number pad, the Deathstalker Ultimate features a touchscreen, along with 10 contextual keys." title="Razer Deathstalker Ultimate" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Instead of a number pad, the Deathstalker Ultimate features a touchscreen, along with 10 contextual keys.</strong></p> <p>The Switchblade UI consists of a responsive multitouch 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen and 10 context-sensitive dynamic keys. The screen can act as a trackpad, or can play host to a number of applications including a web browser, Twitter client, YouTube viewer, and plenty of others, such as game-specific apps for a handful of popular titles. Additionally, the keyboard has plenty of on-the-fly macro keys, and the software suite that manages it is polished and very powerful. In other words, the Razer Deathstalker is clearly the most sophisticated gaming keyboard around. The question is, do the Deathstalker’s technical flourishes justify its massive $250 price tag.</p> <p>At that kind of price, we expect every element of a keyboard to be top-notch; unfortunately, that’s not the case with the <a title="deathstalker" href="http://www.razerzone.com/deathstalker" target="_blank">Razer Deathstalker</a>. The problem is the keyboard itself, which uses widely spaced chiclet-style keys, familiar to anyone who’s used a MacBook or most Ultrabooks. They look nice, but it’s not clear why a large, high-end gaming keyboard would opt to use them over mechanical switches or even rubber-dome membrane keys. The chiclet keys simply don’t feel very good to use—they float around inside their tracks and have miniscule travel when pressed. They’re not awful, but we’d expect a lot better from a $250 keyboard.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Razer Deathstalker Ultimate</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Juicy Fruit<br /></span> <p>Super-cool Switchblade UI; good software support.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Chiclets<br /></span> <p>Key quality is subpar for typing and game play; very expensive.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$150, <a href="http://www.razerzone.com " target="_blank">www.razerzone.com</a></strong></p> <h4>S.T.R.I.K.E. 7</h4> <p><strong>Plenty of novel features, but look at that price</strong></p> <p>Probably the most interesting thing about the <a title="strike 7" href="http://www.cyborggaming.com/strike7/" target="_blank">S.T.R.I.K.E. 7</a> is that it’s modular and customizable. When you first take it out of the box, the keyboard is in seven pieces, which can be screwed together in a number of different configurations. One of the pieces is a large touchscreen, which can be affixed to either the left or right side of the keyboard, as can an extra bank of macro keys and the adjustable “active palm rest,” which features a thumb wheel and button. The two halves of the keyboard can be used separately, though both must be connected to the touchscreen, and the kit comes with a set of 16 replacement key caps, so you can make sure your S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 doesn’t look like anyone else’s.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227_small.jpg" alt="The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is modular, and can be assembled in several different configurations." title="Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E. 7" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is modular, and can be assembled in several different configurations.</strong></p> <p>On the other hand, you probably won’t meet anyone else with a S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, unless you regularly attend LAN parties down at the yacht club. At $300, this is the most expensive keyboard we can remember reviewing, and some of the features just don’t rise to the level of expectations set by the price. The touchscreen, for instance, is resistive and not nearly as responsive as the screen on the Razer Deathstalker Ultimate. And like the Deathstalker, the S.T.R.I.K.E. opts for non-mechanical keys. Though the dome-style membrane keys are better than the Deathstalker’s chiclet keys, we firmly believe that a keyboard that costs three times as much as most of its competition ought to have the best keys available.</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/3AbwJON7ECk" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">S.T.R.I.K.E. 7</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Home Run<br /></span> <p>The most customizable keyboard around; tons of room for macros on keyboard and touchscreen.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Strike Out<br /></span> <p>Super pricey; non-mechanical keyboard feels so-so; touchscreen responsiveness is lacking.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$300, <a href="http://www.madcatz.com" target="_blank">www.madcatz.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Logitech G710+</h4> <p><strong>Logitech brings it back to basics</strong></p> <p>Logitech has finally decided that the recent trend toward mechanical gaming keyboards isn’t a passing fad, and has thrown its own hat into the ring with the G710+. At $150, the <a title="logitech g710+" href="http://gaming.logitech.com/en-us/product/g710plus-mechanical-gaming-keyboard" target="_blank">G710+</a> is one of the company’s most expensive boards, but it forgoes the LCD screens and raft of macro buttons usually found on Logitech’s highest-end products. Instead, the G710+ is a relatively straightforward keyboard built around a sturdy base of mechanical keys.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227187_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227187_small_0.jpg" alt="The backlight for the Logitech G710+’s arrow and WASD keys is separate from the rest of the board, so you can make them glow brighter than their surroundings." title="Logitech G710+" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The backlight for the Logitech G710+’s arrow&nbsp; and WASD keys is separate from the rest of the board, so you can make them glow brighter than their surroundings.</strong></p> <p>The G710+ uses MX Cherry Brown switches, which are a sort of compromise between the hyper-sensitive Reds and the tactile (and loud) Blues. They’re a nice middle-ground switch, excellent for both gaming and typing, though not completely ideal for either. Logitech has augmented the Cherry Browns with noise-dampening rings inside each key, for a quieter gaming session. The keys are mounted into a heavy board, with a clean black-and-gray aesthetic with orange accents. When connected via USB, the G710+’s laser-etched keycaps glow white—you can’t change the color, but the brightness is adjustable. In a nice, novel feature, the brightness of the WASD and arrow keys can be adjusted independently, to make them stand out more.</p> <p>Beyond the mechanical keys, the G710+ doesn’t have a lot of flashy features—just a set of macro keys (programmable on-the-fly), some media controls, and a standard-issue software suite with pre-made macro profiles for most modern games. It comes with a removable wrist rest, and includes a single USB pass-through. In all, it’s a nice, well-constructed keyboard, though its feature set is just a tiny bit smaller than some similarly priced mechanical boards from other brands.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Logitech G710+</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">O.G.<br /></span> <p>Excellent typing and gaming feel; dual-zone lighting;noise-dampened keys.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Oh No<br /></span> <p>On the pricier side; few pass-throughs.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$150, <a href="http://www.logitech.com " target="_blank">www.logitech.com</a></strong></p> <h3>The Art of Cherrypicking</h3> <p>If you’re the pattern-recognizing sort, you may notice that every mechanical keyboard in this roundup uses Cherry MX switches for their key mechanisms. That’s because virtually all mechanical gaming keyboards today use some variety of Cherry MX switch, such as Brown or Blue. The names indicate both the actual color of the switch (pry a keycap up and you’ll be able to tell by sight which switch is underneath), and the switch’s mechanical characteristics, in terms of tactility and resistance.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/k60_d_install_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/k60_d_install_small.jpg" width="620" height="403" /></a></p> <p>A switch that is highly tactile has a noticeable “bump” that you overcome as you press it down, and tends to make a click noise as it passes that bump. A switch with high resistance requires more force to depress. Here are the four most common varieties of Cherry MX switch:</p> <p>Red: A non-tactile switch with low resistance. The pressing action is smooth, with no bump, and because of its low resistance it is very responsive. Good for action gamers.</p> <p>Black: A non-tactile switch, like the Red, with higher resistance.</p> <p>Blue: A highly tactile switch, with a dramatic (and loud) click. Considered the best switch for typing, but they can be slightly harder to double-tap quickly for gaming.</p> <p>Brown: A middle-ground switch, with a light tactile click and medium resistance. Functions well for both typing and gaming.</p> <p>Click <a title="mechanical keyboard guide" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/mechanical_keyboard_guide_2013" target="_blank">here</a> to read our in-depth mechanical keyboard guide.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>Corsair Vengeance K90</h4> <p><strong>All the macro keys money can buy</strong></p> <p>The <a title="K90" href="http://www.corsair.com/gaming-peripherals/gaming-keyboards/vengeance-k90-performance-mmo-mechanical-gaming-keyboard.html" target="_blank">Corsair Vengeance K90</a> launched early last year alongside the Vengeance K60. It is, at heart, an expanded version of that board, fitted with a vast bank of customizable macro keys at the far left, and a detachable rubberized wrist rest. The extra functionality is mostly aimed at MMO players, who may have need for the truly staggering number of macro keys—18 keys, arranged into three banks of six, with three profile buttons for a total of 54 programmable actions. We’re a bit skeptical about the utility of so many macro buttons, as it becomes difficult to remember which key does what, and to hit them without looking, as the button count increases. Still, you should be able to imagine whether you’d be able to put the buttons to good use or not.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227181_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboards-5227181_0.jpg" alt="With the K90, Corsair goes deep on macro keys. Unfortunately, only the main QWERTY keyboard and arrow keys are mechanical." title="Corsair Vengeance K90" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>With the K90, Corsair goes deep on macro keys. Unfortunately, only the main QWERTY keyboard and arrow keys are mechanical.</strong></p> <p>Beyond those extra keys, the K90 features the strong points of the K60, including a rugged all-aluminum body and responsive Cherry MX Red switches. The fantastic-looking low-profile aluminum design is even snazzier in the K90, thanks to blue backlighting that shines through the laser-etched keycaps. One of the strangest and worst features of the K90 is that it uses membrane-style switches for a small subset of the keys on the board (the 18 macro keys, the function keys, as well as the block above the arrow keys), which feel noticeably worse than the mechanical keys that make up the rest of the board. Especially for keys that are meant to be used in the heat of the moment, the transition to non-mechanical keys is very jarring.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Corsair Vengeance K90</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Macro<br /></span> <p>Tons of macro keys; nice build quality and design; mechanical.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Micro<br /></span> <p>Not all keys are mechanical; giant block of macro keys is difficult to use efficiently.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$130, <a href="http://www.corsair.com " target="_blank">www.corsair.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Rosewill RK-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard</h4> <p><strong>A solid board, low on features</strong></p> <p>Sometimes it’s nice when a company comes along and boils down a product category to just the features that are important. With the <a title="rk-9100" href="http://www.rosewill.com/products/2320/ProductDetail_Overview.htm" target="_blank">RK-9100</a>, Rosewill does just that, offering a solid mechanical gaming keyboard with few flourishes.</p> <p>The RK-9100 is a compact design with no wrist rest and a minimal lip around the outside of the board. It’s heavy, and feels quite sturdy. It uses mechanical keys—once again, Cherry MX switches, though with the RK-9100 you have a choice of the typing-friendly Blue switches, or the in-between Browns. We tend to prefer the Browns as a nice compromise between gaming and typing, which makes it a bit frustrating that the Brown-switch version of the RK-9100 retails for $130, $20 more than the Blue version.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227185_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227185_small.jpg" alt="The Rosewill RK-9100 isn’t the fanciest-looking keyboard, but it feels great to use." title="Rosewill RK-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard" width="620" height="321" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Rosewill RK-9100 isn’t the fanciest-looking keyboard, but it feels great to use.</strong></p> <p>The keyboard has a nice blue backlight, except for the scroll-, num-, and caps-lock keys, which glow green while active. It’s a good idea, but for some reason the green light is incredibly bright, and angled to shine right into your eyes while active. It’s distracting, and unfortunately can’t be turned off—we wouldn’t be surprised if most RK-9100 owners end up fixing the problem with electrical tape. That’s the only significant problem we noticed while using Rosewill’s keyboard, but we couldn’t shake the feeling that $130 is a bit too much to ask for this board. The Logitech G710+ features the same MX Brown switches, and with street a price that’s currently only about $10 more than RK-9100, includes significantly more features that set it apart as a gaming keyboard.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Rosewill RK-9100 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Rose water<br /></span> <p>No-nonsense design; selection of different Cherry MX switches.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Hose water<br /></span> <p>No macro keys; no software support.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$130, <a href="http://www.rosewill.com " target="_blank">www.rosewill.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Roccat Isku</h4> <p><strong>Membrane plank makes strong impression</strong></p> <p>If you’re not ready to make the jump to a mechanical keyboard, and aren’t interested in touchscreens or scalp massagers or whatever other luxury features are going into the $200-plus planks, your money will go a lot farther. Specifically, it’ll go all the way to the <a title="roccat" href="http://www.roccat.org/Products/Gaming-Keyboards/ROCCAT-Isku/" target="_blank">Roccat Isku</a>, a handsome and feature-rich keyboard from German newcomer Roccat.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227184_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wwkeyboards-5227184_small.jpg" alt="The Isku is thin but takes up a lot of room, thanks to its broad wrist rest and bezel." title="Roccat Isku" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Isku is thin but takes up a lot of room, thanks to its broad wrist rest and bezel.</strong></p> <p>The Isku is wide and flat, with an oversized wrist rest and a wide bezel all around the board, taking up plenty of desk real estate. It’s got a grippy textured-plastic frame and recessed contoured keys that make the whole thing seem flatter and lower to the desk than normal. The dome keys are good (as far as they go) with a fairly crisp and responsive activation.</p> <p>Where the Isku really shines is in its expansive set of features. It has eight macro buttons (including three “thumbster” keys under the spacebar), with on-the-fly recording, and profile switching. It gets further mileage out of the bindable keys and macros with an “EasyShift” button where the caps-lock key would normally be, which temporarily switches the functions of all right-hand-accessible keys while held down. There’s a lot to customize, and the included software suite is intuitive and up to the task.</p> <p>Also, the Isku is part of the “Roccat Talk” ecosystem, which allows button presses on the keyboard to affect the behavior of a Roccat gaming mouse, and vice versa. At this price, we’d strongly recommend buying a mechanical board, but if you can’t or don’t want to, the Isku is an excellent choice.</p> <div class="lowdown"> <div class="module orange-module article-module verdict-block"><span class="module-name-header" style="font-size: 14px; border-bottom: 1px solid #000;">Roccat Isku</span><br /> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="product-verdict"> <div class="positive"><span class="header">Rose water<br /></span> <p>No-nonsense design; selection of different Cherry MX switches.</p> </div> <div class="negative"><span class="header">Hose water<br /></span> <p>No macro keys; no software support.</p> </div> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_9.jpg" alt="score:9" title="score:9" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$90, <a href="http://www.roccat.org" target="_blank">www.roccat.org</a></strong></p> <h3>A Keyboard for Clean Freaks</h3> <p>One of the keyboards we received while preparing this roundup was the <a title="logitech washable keyboard" href="http://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/washable-keyboard-k310" target="_blank">Logitech Washable Keyboard K310</a>. Somehow it didn’t seem quite fair to pit the $40 K310 against the likes of the Razer Deathstalker in a straight head-to-head, but we couldn’t resist the chance to see if this washable keyboard really works.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/keyboard_before_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/keyboard_before_small.jpg" width="620" height="415" /></a></p> <p>The K310 has a standard full-size layout with flat, thick plastic keys. Despite the very plastic-y construction and non-standard keys, the keyboard actually feels pretty decent to use.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dirtykeyboard_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dirtykeyboard_small_0.jpg" width="620" height="415" /></a></p> <p>We don’t actually have a standard testing procedure worked out for washable keyboards, so we improvised. We took a quick trip to the corner store for a bag of Cheetohs—bane of all keyboards. We then used a mortar and pestle to mash them into a fine, delicious powder, and applied it liberally to the keyboard (and surrounding table).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/washingkeyboard_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/washingkeyboard_small.jpg" width="620" height="415" /></a></p> <p>We were originally going to stick the K310 in the dishwasher, but a label on its back specifically warns against doing so. Instead, we gave it a thorough hand-washing in the sink.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/clean_keyboard_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/clean_keyboard_small.jpg" width="620" height="347" /></a></p> <p>What’s the verdict? The keyboard looks like new, and works just fine. Not bad!</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/best_keyboard_2013#comments March 2013 2013 best keyboard Hardware Hardware Logitech G710+ maximum pc Razer Deathstalker Ultimate reviews strike 7 Keyboards Reviews Features Wed, 10 Sep 2014 21:44:05 +0000 Alex Castle 25598 at http://www.maximumpc.com Haswell-E Review http://www.maximumpc.com/haswell-e_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>UPDATE: We've updated our Haswell- E story to include our video on Haswell-E (X99) motheboards</h3> <p>After three long years of going hungry with quad-cores, red meat is finally back on the menu for enthusiasts. And not just any gamey slab full of gristle with shared cores, either. With its new eight-core Haswell-E CPU, Intel may have served up the most mouth-watering, beautifully seared piece of red meat in a long time.</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/aNTMIHr9Ha0" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>And it’s a good thing, too, because enthusiast’s stomachs have been growling. Devil’s Canyon? That puny quad-core was just an appetizer. And that dual-core highly overclockable Pentium K CPU? It’s the mint you grab on your way out of the steak house.</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/_h9ggGZHFtU" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>No, what enthusiasts have craved and wanted ever since Intel’s original clock-blocking job on the original Sandy Bridge-E was a true, overclockable enthusiast chip with eight cores. So if you’re ready for a belt loosening, belly full of enthusiast-level prime rib, pass the horse radish, get that damned salad off our table, and read on to see if Intel’s Haswell-E is everything we hoped it would be.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Meet the Haswell-E parts</strong></p> <p><span style="color: #ff0000;"><img src="/files/u154082/haswell-e_comparison_chart.png" alt="haswell e comparison chart" title="haswell e comparison chart" width="620" height="241" /></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/lga2011v3socket.jpg" alt="haswell e socket" title="haswell e socket" width="620" height="626" /></p> <p><strong>Despite its name, the LGA2011-v3 socket is not same as the older LGA2011 socket. Fortunately, the cooling offsets are exactly the same, so almost all older coolers and accessories should work just fine.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/lga2011socket1.jpg" alt="lga2011" title="lga2011" width="620" height="556" /></p> <p><strong>Though they look the same, LGA2011’s socket has arms that are actually arranged differently than the new LGA2011-v3 that replaces it. And no, you can’t drop a newer Haswell-E into this socket and make it work.</strong></p> <h4>Haswell-E</h4> <p><strong>The first consumer Intel eight-core arrives at last</strong></p> <p>Being a card-carrying member of the PC enthusiast class is not an easy path to follow. Sure, you get the most cores and priciest parts, but it also means you get to wait a hell of a long time in between CPU upgrades. And with Intel’s cadence the last few years, it also means you get the leftovers. It’s been that way ever since Intel went with its two-socket strategy with the original LGA1366/LGA1156. Those who picked the big-boy socket and stuck to their guns on Pure PC performance always got the shaft.&nbsp;</p> <p>The original Ivy Bridge in LGA1156 socket, for example, hit the streets in April of 2012. As a reward for having the more efficient and faster CPU, Intel rewarded the small-socket crowd with its Haswell in June of 2013. It wasn’t until September of 2013 that big-boy socket users finally got Ivy Bridge-E for their LGA2011s. But with Haswell already out and tearing up the benchmarks, who the hell cared?</p> <p>Well, that time has come with Haswell-E, Intel’s first replacement for the aging LGA2011 platform since 2011. This time though, Intel isn’t just shuffling new parts into its old stack. For the first since the original Pentium 4 Extreme Edition, paying the price premium actually nets you more: namely, the company’s first consumer eight-core CPU.</p> <p><strong>Meet the T-Rex of consumer CPUs: The Core i7-5960X</strong></p> <p>We were actually a little leery of Haswell when it first launched last year. It was, after all, a chip seemingly tuned for the increasingly mobile/laptoppy world we were told was our post PC-apocalyptic future. Despite this, we recognized the chip as the CPU to have for new system builders. Clock for clock, its 22nm process, tri-gate transistors put everything else to shame—even the six-core Core i7-3930K chip in many tasks. So it’s no surprise that when Intel took a quad-core Haswell, put it in the Xerox machine, and hit the copy x2 button , we’d be ecstatic. Eight cores are decidedly better than six cores or four cores when you need them.&nbsp;</p> <p>The cores don’t come without a cost though, and we don’t mean the usual painful price Intel asks for its highest-end CPUs. It’s no secret that more cores means more heat, which means lower clock speeds. That’s one of the rationales Intel used with the original six-core Core i7-3960X. Although sold as a six-core, the original Sandy Bridge-E was built using an eight-core die on which Intel had permanently switched off two cores. Intel said it wanted to balance the needs of the many versus the needs of the few—that is, by turning off two of the cores, the part could hit higher clock speeds. Indeed, the Core i7-3960X had a base clock of 3.3GHz and Turbo Boost of 3.9GHz, and most could overclock it to 5GHz. The same chip packaged as a Xeon with all eight cores working—the Xeon E5-2687W—was locked down at 3.1GHz and mostly buzzed along at 3.4GHz.</p> <p>With the new Core i7-5960X—the only eight-core of the bunch—the chip starts at a seemingly pedestrian 3GHz with a Turbo Boost of one core up to 3.5GHz. Those subsonic clock speeds won’t impress against the Core i7-4790K, which starts at 4GHz. You’ll find more on how well Haswell-E performs against Haswell in our performance section, but that’s the price to be paid, apparently, to get a chip with this many cores under the heat spreader. Regarding thermals, in fact, Intel has increased the TDP rating to 140 watts versus 130 watts of Ivy Bridge-E and Sandy Bridge-E.&nbsp;</p> <p>If the low clocks annoy you, the good news is the part is fully unlocked, so the use of overclocking has been approved. For our test units, we had very early hardware and tight deadlines, so we didn’t get very far with our overclocking efforts. Talking with vendors, however, most seem very pleased with the clock speeds they were seeing. One vendor told us overclocks of all cores at 4.5GHz was already obtainable and newer microcode updates were expected to improve that. With even the vaunted Devil’s Canyon Core i7-4790K topping out at 4.7GHz to 4.8GHz, a 4.5GHz is actually a healthy overclock for an eight-core CPU.</p> <p><span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>When you dive down into the actual cores though, much is the same, of course. It’s based on a 22nm process. It has “3D” tri-gate transistors and integrated voltage regulation. Oh, and it’s also the first CPU to feature an integrated DDR4 memory controller.</p> <p><strong>Click the next page to read about DDR4</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>DDR4 details</h4> <p>If you think Haswell-E has been a long wait, just think about DDR3, which made its debut as main memory in systems since 2007. Yes, 2007. The only component that has lasted seven years in most enthusiasts systems might be the PSU, but it’s even rare to find anyone kicking a 500-watt PSU from 2007 these days.&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="white-space: pre;"> </span>DDR4 has been in gestation seemingly as long, so why the delay? From what we can tell, resistance to yet another new memory standard during a time when people thought the desktop PC and the PC in general were dying has been the root delay. It didn’t help that no one wanted to stick their head out first, either. RAM makers didn’t want to begin producing it DDR4 in volume until AMD or Intel made chipsets for it, and AMD and Intel didn’t want to support it because of the costs it would add to PCs at a time when people were trying to lower costs. The stalemate finally ends with Haswell-E, which integrates a quad-channel memory controller into its die.</p> <p>Initial launch speeds of DDR4 clock in at DDR4/2133. For those already running DDR3 at 3GHz or higher, a 2,133 data rate is a snooze, but you should realize that anything over 2133 is overclocked RAM. With DDR4, the JEDEC speeds (the body that sets RAM standards) already has target data rates of 3200 on the map. RAM vendors we’ve talked to are already shopping DIMMS near that speed.</p> <p>The best part of DDR4 may be its density message, though. For years, consumer DDR3 has topped out at 8GB on a DIMM. With DDR4, we should see 16B DIMMs almost immediately, and stacking of chips is built into the standard, so it’s possible we’ll see 32GB DIMMs over its lifetime. On a quad-channel, eight-DIMM motherboard, you should expect to be able to build systems with 128GB of RAM using non-ECC DIMMs almost immediately. DDR4 also brings power savings and other improvements, but the main highlights enthusiasts should expect are higher densities and higher clocks. Oh, and higher prices. RAM prices haven’t been fun for anyone of late, but DDR4 will definitely be a premium part for some time. In fact, we couldn’t even get exact pricing from memory vendors as we were going to press, so we’re bracing for some really bad news.</p> <h4>PCIe lanes: now a feature to be blocked</h4> <p>Over the years, we’ve come to expect Intel to clock-block core counts, clock speeds, Hyper-Threading, and even cache for “market segmentation” purposes. What that means is Intel has to find ways to differentiate one CPU from another. Sometimes that’s by turning off Hyper-Threading (witness Core i5 and Core i7) and sometimes its locking down clock speeds. With Haswell-E though, Intel has gone to new heights with its clock-blocking by actually turning off PCIe lanes on some Haswell-E parts to make them less desirable. At the top end, you have the 3GHz Core i7-5960X with eight cores. In the midrange you have the six-core 3.5GHz Core i7-5930K. And at the “low-end” you have the six-core 3.3GHz Core i7-5820K. The 5930K and the 5820K are virtually the same in specs except for one key difference: The PCIe lanes get blocked. Yes, while the Core i7-5960X and Core i7-5930K get 40 lanes of PCIe 3.0, the Core i7-5820K gets an odd 28 lanes of PCIe 3.0. That means those who had hoped to build “budget” Haswell-E boxes with multiple GPUs may have to think hard and fast about using the lowest-end Haswell-E chip. The good news is that for most people, it won’t matter. Plenty of people run Haswell systems with SLI or CrossFire, and those CPUs are limited to 16 lanes. Boards with PLX switches even support four-way GPU setups.</p> <p>Still, it’s a brain bender to think that when you populate an X99 board with the lowest-end Haswell-E, the PCIe configuration will change. The good news is at least they’ll work, just more slowly. Intel says it worked with board vendors to make sure all the slots will function with the budget Haswell-E part.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/mpc_haswell_front-back_1.jpg" alt="haswell e chip" title="haswell e chip" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p><strong>There have been clock-blocking rumors swirling around about the Haswell being a 12-core Xeon with four cores turned off. That’s not true and Intel says this die-shot proves it.&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/ivbe.jpg" alt="ivy bridge e" title="ivy bridge e" width="620" height="550" /></p> <p><strong>Ivy Bridge-E’s main advantage over Sandy Bridge-E was a native six-core die and greatly reduced power consumption. And, unfortunately, like its Ivy Bridge counterpart, overclocking yields on Ivy Bridge-E were greatly reduced over its predecessor, too, with few chips hitting more than 4.7GHz at best.</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/snbe.jpg" alt="sandy bridge e" title="sandy bridge e" width="308" height="260" /></p> <p><strong>Sandy Bridge-E and Sandy Bridge will long be remembered for its friendliness to overclocking and having two of its working cores killed Red Wedding–style by Intel.</strong></p> <p><strong>Click the next page to read about X99.</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>X99&nbsp;</h4> <p><strong>High-end enthusiasts finally get the chipset they want, sort of</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/x99blockdiagram.jpg" alt="x99 block diagram" title="x99 block diagram" width="620" height="381" /></p> <p><strong>Intel overcompensated in SATA on X99 but oddly left SATA Express on the cutting-room floor.</strong></p> <p>You know what we won’t miss? The X79 chipset. No offense to X79 owners, while the Core i7-4960X can stick around for a few more months, X79 can take its under-spec’ed butt out of our establishment. Think we’re being too harsh? We don’t.</p> <p>X79 has no native USB 3.0 support. And its SATA 6Gb/s ports? Only two. It almost reads like a feature set from the last decade to us. Fortunately, in a move we wholly endorse, Intel has gone hog wild in over-compensating for the weaknesses of X79.&nbsp;</p> <p>X99 has eight USB 2.0 ports and six USB 3.0 ports baked into the peripheral controller hub in it. For SATA 6Gb/s, Intel adds 10 ports to X99. Yes, 10 ports of SATA 6Gb/s. That gazongo number of SATA ports, however, is balanced out by two glaring omission in X99: no official SATA Express or M.2 support that came with Z97. Intel didn’t say why it left off SATA Express or M.2 in the chipset, but it did say motherboard vendors were free to implement it using techniques they gleaned from doing it on Z97 motherboards. If we had to hazard a guess, we’d say Intel’s conservative nature led it to leave the feature off the chipset, as the company is a stickler for testing new interfaces before adding official support. At this point, SATA Express has been a no-show. After all, motherboards with SATA Express became available in May with Z97, yet we still have not seen any native SATA Express drives. We expect most motherboard vendors to simply add it through discrete controllers; even our early board sample had a SATA Express port.&nbsp;</p> <p>One potential weakness of X99 is Intel’s use of the DMI 2.0. That offers roughly 2.5GB/s of transfer speed between the CPU and the south bridge or PCH, but with the board hanging 10 SATA devices, USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, and 8 PCIe Gen 2.0 lanes off that link, there is the potential for massive congestion—but only in a worst-case scenario. You’d really have to a boat load of hardware lit up and sending and receiving data at once to cause the DMI 2.0 to bottleneck. Besides, Intel says, you can just hang the device off the plentiful PCIe Gen 3.0 from the CPU.</p> <p>That does bring up our last point on X99: the PCIe lanes. As we mentioned earlier, there will be some confusion over the PCIe lane configuration on systems with Core i7-5820K parts. With only 28 lanes of PCIe lanes available from that one chip, there’s concern that whole slots on the motherboard will be turned off. That won’t happen, Intel says. Instead, if you go with the low-rent ride, you simply lose bandwidth. Take an X99 mobo and plug in the Core i7-5930K and you get two slots at x16 PCIe, and one x8 slot. Remove that CPU and install the Core i7-5820K, and the slots will now be configured as one x16, one x8 and one x4. It’s still more bandwidth than you can get from a normal LGA1150-based Core i7-4770K but it will be confusing nonetheless. We expect motherboard vendors to sort it out for their customers, though.</p> <p>Haswell-E does bring one more interesting PCIe configuration though: the ability to run five graphics cards in the PCIe slots at x8 speeds. Intel didn’t comment on the reasons for the option but there only a few apparent reasons. The first is mining configurations where miners are already running six GPUs. Mining, however, doesn’t seem to need the bandwidth a x8 slot would provide. The other possibility is a five-way graphics card configuration being planned by Nvidia or AMD. At this point it’s just conjecture, but one thing we know is that X99 is a welcome upgrade. Good riddance X79.&nbsp;</p> <h4>Top Procs Compared</h4> <p><span style="color: #ff0000;"><span style="white-space: pre;"><img src="/files/u154082/top_processors.png" alt="top processors compared" title="top processors compared" width="620" height="344" /></span></span></p> <h4>Core Competency&nbsp;</h4> <p><strong>How many cores do you really need?</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/haswelletaskamanger.png" alt="haswell task manager" title="haswell task manager" width="620" height="564" /></p> <p><strong>It is indeed a glorious thing to see a task manager with this many threads, but not everyone needs them.</strong></p> <p>Like the great technology philosopher Sir Mix-A-Lot said, we like big cores and we cannot lie. We want as many cores as legally available. But we recognize that not everyone rolls as hard as we do with a posse of threads. With Intel’s first eight-core CPU, consumers can now pick from two cores all the way to eight on the Intel side of the aisle—and then there’s Hyper-Threading to confuse you even more. So, how many cores do you need? We’ll give you the quick-and-dirty lowdown.</p> <p><strong>Two cores</strong></p> <p>Normally, we’d completely skip dual-cores without Hyper-Threading because the parts tend to be the very bottom end of the pool Celerons. Our asterisk is the new Intel Pentium G3258 Anniversary Edition, or “Pentium K,” which is a real hoot of a chip. It easily overclocks and is dead cheap. It’s not the fastest in content creation by a long shot, but if we were building an ultra-budget gaming rig and needed to steal from the CPU budget for a faster GPU, we’d recommend this one. Otherwise, we see dual-cores as purely ultra-budget parts today.</p> <p><strong>Two cores with Hyper-Threading</strong></p> <p>For your parents who need a reliable, solid PC without overclocking (you really don’t want to explain how to back down the core voltage in the BIOS to grandma, do you?), the dual-core Core i3 parts fulfill the needs of most people who only do content creation on occasion. Hyper-Threading adds value in multi-threaded and multi-tasking tasks. You can almost think of these chips with Hyper-Threading as three-core CPUs.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Four cores</strong></p> <p>For anyone who does content creation such as video editing, encoding, or even photo editing with newer applications, a quad-core is usually our recommended part. Newer game consoles are also expected to push min specs for newer games to quad-cores or more as well, so for most people who carry an Enthusiast badge, a quad-core part is the place to start.</p> <p><strong>Four cores with Hyper-Threading</strong></p> <p>Hyper-Threading got a bad name early on from the Pentium 4 and existing software that actually saw it reduce performance when turned on. Those days are long behind us though, and Hyper-Threading offers a nice performance boost with its virtual cores. How much? &nbsp;A 3.5GHz Core i7 quad-core with Hyper-Threading generally offers the same performance on multi-threaded tasks as a Core i5 running at 4.5GHz. The Hyper-Threading helps with content creation and we’d say, if content creation is 30 percent or less of your time, this is the place to be and really the best fit for 90 percent of enthusiasts.</p> <p><strong>Six cores with Hyper-Threading</strong></p> <p>Once you pass the quad-core mark, you are moving pixels professionally in video editing, 3D modeling, or other tasks that necessitate the costs of a six-core chip or more. We still think that for 90 percent of folks, a four-core CPU is plenty, but if losing time rendering a video costs you money (or you’re just ADD), pay for a six-core or more CPU. How do you decide if you need six or eight cores? Read on.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Eight cores with Hyper-Threading</strong></p> <p>We recognize that not everyone needs an eight-core processor. In fact, one way to save cash is to buy the midrange six-core chip instead, but if time is money, an eight-core chip will pay for itself. For example, the eight-core Haswell-E is about 45 percent faster than the four-core Core i7-4790K chip. If your render job is three hours, that’s more time working on other paying projects. The gap gets smaller between the six-core and the eight-core of course, so it’s very much about how much your time is worth or how short your attention span is. But just to give you an idea, the 3.3GHz Core i7-5960X is about 20 percent faster than the Core i7-4960X running at 4GHz.</p> <p><strong>Click the next page to see how Haswell-E stacks up against Intel's other top CPUs.</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4 style="font-size: 10px;">Intel’s Top Guns Compared</h4> <p><img src="/files/u154082/cpus17918.jpg" alt="haswell" title="haswell" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p><strong><strong>The LGA2011-based Core i7-4960X (left) and the LGA2011-v3-based Core i7-5960X (middle) dwarf the Core i7-4790K chip (right). Note the change in the heat spreader between the older 4960X and 5960X, which now has larger “wings” that make it easier to remove the CPU by hand. The breather hole, which allows for curing of the thermal interface material (solder in this case), has also been moved. Finally, while the chips are the same size, they are keyed differently to prevent you from installing a newer Haswell-E into an older Ivy Bridge-E board.</strong></strong></p> <h4>Benchmarks</h4> <p><strong>Performance junkies, rejoice! Haswell-E hits it out of the ballpark</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/x99-gaming_5-rev10.jpg" alt="x99 gigabyte" title="x99 gigabyte" width="620" height="734" /></p> <p><strong>We used a Gigabyte X99 motherboard (without the final heatsinks for the voltage-regulation modules) for our testing.</strong></p> <p>For our testing, we set up three identical systems with the fastest available CPUs for each platform. Each system used an Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 with the same 340.52 drivers, Corsair 240GB Neutron GTX SSDs, and 64-bit Windows 8.1 Enterprise. Since we’ve had issues with clock speeds varying on cards that physically look the same, we also verified the clock speeds of each GPU manually and also recorded the multiplier, bclock, and speeds the parts run at under single-threaded and multi-threaded loads. So you know, the 3GHz Core i7-5960X’s would run at 3.5GHz on single-threaded tasks but usually sat at 3.33GHz on multi-threaded tasks. The 3.6GHz Core i7-4960X ran everything at 4GHz, including multi-threading tasks. The 4GHz Core i7-4790K part sat at 4.4GHz on both single- and multi-threaded loads.</p> <p>For Z97, we used a Gigabyte Z97M-D3H mobo with a Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” chip aboard. &nbsp;An Asus Sabertooth X79 did the duty for our Core i7-4960X “Ivy Bridge-E” chip. Finally, for our Core i7-5960X chip, we obtained an early Gigabyte X99-Gaming 5 motherboard. The board was pretty early but we feel comfortable with our performance numbers as Intel has claimed the Core i7-5960X was “45 percent” faster than a quad-core chip, and that’s what we saw in some of our tests.&nbsp;</p> <p>One thing to note: The RAM capacities were different but in the grand scheme of things and the tests we run, it has no impact. The Sabertooth X79 &nbsp;had 16GB of DDR3/2133 in quad-channel mode, the Z97M-D3H had 16GB of DDR3/2133 in dual-channel mode. Finally, the X99-Gaming 5 board had 32GB of Corsair DDR4/2133. All three CPUs will overclock, but we tested at stock speeds to get a good baseline feel.&nbsp;</p> <p>For our benchmarks, we selected from a pile of real-world games, synthetic tests, as well as real-world applications across a wide gamut of disciplines. Our gaming tests were also run at very low resolutions and low-quality settings to take the graphics card out of the equation. We also acknowledge that people want to know what they can expect from the different CPUs at realistic settings and resolutions, so we also ran all of the games at their highest settings at 1920x1080 resolution, which is still the norm in PC gaming.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The results</strong></p> <p>We could get into a multi-sentence analysis of how it did and slowly break out with our verdict but in a society where people get impatient at the microwave, we’ll give you the goods up front: Holy Frakking Smokes, this chip is fast! The Core i7-5960X is simply everything high-end enthusiasts have been dreaming about.&nbsp;</p> <p>Just to give you an idea, we’ve been recording scores from $7,000 and $13,000 PCs in our custom Premiere Pro CS6 benchmark for a couple of years now. The fastest we’ve ever seen is the Digital Storm Aventum II that we reviewed in our January 2014 issue. The 3.3GHz Core i7-5960X was faster than the Aventum II’s Core i7-4960X running at 4.7GHz. Again, at stock speeds, the Haswell-E was faster than the fastest Ivy Bridge-E machine we’ve ever seen.</p> <p>It wasn’t just Premiere Pro CS6 we saw that spread in either. In most of our tests that stress multi-threading, we saw roughly a 45 percent to 50 percent improvement going from the Haswell to the Haswell-E part. The scaling gets tighter when you’re comparing the six-core Core i7-4960X but it’s still a nice, big number. We generally saw a 20 percent to 25 percent improvement in multi-threaded tasks.&nbsp;</p> <p>That’s not even factoring in the clock differences between the parts. The Core i7-4790K buzzes along at 4.4GHz—1.1GHz faster than the Core i7-5960X in multi-threaded tasks—yet it still got stomped by 45 to 50 percent. The Core i7-4960X had a nearly 700MHz clock advantage as well over the eight-core chip.</p> <p>The whole world isn’t multi-threaded, though. Once we get to workloads that don’t push all eight cores, the higher clock speeds of the other parts predictably take over. ProShow Producer 5.0, for example, has never pushed more than four threads and we saw the Core i7-5960X lose by 17 percent. The same happened in our custom Stitch.Efx 2.0 benchmark, too. In fact, in general, the Core i7-4790K will be faster thanks to its clock speed advantage. If you overclocked the Core i7-5960X to 4GHz or 4.4GHz on just four cores, the two should be on par in pure performance on light-duty workloads.</p> <p>In gaming, we saw some results from our tests that are a little bewildering to us. At low-resolution and low-quality settings, where the graphics card was not the bottleneck, the Core i7-4790K had the same 10 percent to 20 percent advantage. When we ran the same tests at ultra and 1080p resolution, the Core i7-5960X actually had a slight advantage in some of the runs against the Core i7-4790K chip. We think that may be from the bandwidth advantage the 5960X has. Remember, we ran all of the RAM at 2,133, so it’s not DDR4 vs. DDR3. It’s really quad-channel vs. dual-channel.</p> <p>We actually put a full breakdown of each of the benchmarks and detailed analysis on MaximumPC.com if you really want to nerd out on the performance.</p> <p><strong>What you should buy</strong></p> <p>Let’s say it again: The Core i7-5960X stands as the single fastest CPU we’ve seen to date. It’s simply a monster in performance in multi-threaded tasks and we think once you’ve overclocked it, it’ll be as fast as all the others in tasks that aren’t thread-heavy workloads.</p> <p>That, however, doesn’t mean everyone should start saving to buy a $1,000 CPU. No, for most people, the dynamic doesn’t change. For the 80 percent of you who fall into the average Joe or Jane nerd category, a four-core with Hyper-Threading still offers the best bang for the buck. It won’t be as fast as the eight-core, but unless you’re really working your rig for a living, made of money, or hate for your Handbrake encodes to take that extra 25 minutes, you can slum it with the Core i7-4790K chip. You don’t even have to heavily overclock it for the performance to be extremely peppy.</p> <p>For the remaining 20 percent who actually do a lot of encoding, rendering, professional photo editing, or heavy multi-tasking, the Core i7-5960X stands as the must-have CPU. It’s the chip you’ve been waiting for Intel to release. Just know that at purely stock speeds, you do give up performance to the Core i7-4790K part. But again, the good news is that with minor overclocking tweaks, it’ll be the equal or better of the quad-core chip.</p> <p>What’s really nice here is that for the first time, Intel is giving its “Extreme” SKU something truly extra for the $999 they spend. Previous Core i7 Extreme parts have always been good overclockers, but a lot of people bypassed them for the midrange chips such as the Core i7-4930K, which gave you the same core counts and overclocking to boot. The only true differentiation Extreme CPU buyers got was bragging rights. With Haswell-E, the Extreme buyers are the only ones with eight-core parts.</p> <p>Bang-for-the-buck buyers also get a treat from the six-core Core i7-5820K chip. At $389, it’s slightly more expensive than the chip it replaces—the $323 Core i7-4820K—but the extra price nets you two more cores. Yes, you lose PCIe bandwidth but most people probably won’t notice the difference. We didn’t have a Core i7-5820K part to test, but we &nbsp;believe on our testing with the Core i7-5960X that minor overclocking on the cheap Haswell-E would easily make it the equal of Intel’s previous six-core chips that could never be had for less than $580.</p> <p>And that, of course, brings us to the last point of discussion: Should you upgrade from your Core i7-4960X part? The easy answer is no. In pure CPU-on-CPU &nbsp;showdowns, the Core i7-4960X is about 20 percent slower in multi-threaded tasks, and in light-duty threads it’s about the same, thanks to the clock-speed advantage the Core i7-4960X has. There are two reasons we might want to toss aside the older chip, though. The first is the pathetic SATA 6Gb/s ports, which, frankly, you actually need on a heavy-duty work machine. The second reason would be the folks for whom a 20 percent reduction in rendering time would actually be worth paying for.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Click the next page to check out our Haswell-E benchmarks.</strong></p> <hr /> <h4><span style="font-size: 1.17em;">Haswell-E Benchmarks</span></h4> <p><strong>Haswell-E benchmarks overview</strong></p> <p><span style="font-size: 1.17em;">&nbsp;</span><img src="/files/u154082/haswell_e_benchmarks.png" alt="haswell e benchmarks" title="haswell e benchmarks" width="541" height="968" /></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Benchmark Breakdown</strong></p> <p>We like to give you the goods on a nice table but not everyone is familiar with what we use to test and what exactly the numbers means so let’s break down some of the more significant results for you.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/cinebenchsinglethreaded.png" alt="cinebench 15 single" title="cinebench 15 single" width="620" height="472" /></p> <p><strong>Cinebench 15 single-threaded performance</strong></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We used Maxon’s Cinebench 15 benchmark to see just how fast the trio of chips would run this 3D rendering test. Cinebench 15 allows you to restrict it from using all of the cores or just one core. For this test, we wanted to see how the Core i7-5960X “Haswell-E” would do against the others by measuring a single core. The winner here is the Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” chip. That’s no surprise—it uses the same microarchitecture as the big boy Haswell-E but it has a ton more clock speed on default. The Haswell-E is about 21 percent slower running at 3.5GHz. The Devil’s Canyon part is running about 900MHz faster at 4.4GHz. Remember, on default, the Haswell-E only hits 3.5GHz on single-core loads. The Haswell-E better microarchitecture also loses to the Core i7-4960X “Ivy Bridge-E,” but not by much and that’s with the Ivy Bridge-E’s clock speed advantage of 500MHz. Still, the clear winner in single-threaded performance is the higher-clocked Devil’s Canyon chip.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4790K</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/cinebenchmulti.png" alt="cinebench 15 multi" title="cinebench 15 multi" width="620" height="428" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Cinebench 15 multi-threaded performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">You don’t buy an eight-core CPU and then throw only single-thread workloads at it, so we took the handcuffs off of Cinebench 15 and let it render with all available threads. On the Haswell-E part, that’s 16 threads of fun, on Ivy Bridge-E it’s 12-threads, and on Devil’s Canyon we’re looking at eight-threads. The winner by a clear margin is the Haswell-E part. Its performance is an astounding 49 percent faster than the Devil’s Canyon and about 22 percent faster than Ivy Bridge-E. We’ll just have to continue to remind you, too: this is with a severe clock penalty. That 49-percent-faster score is with all eight cores running at 3.3GHz vs all four of the Devil’s Canyon cores buzzing along at 4.4GHz. That’s an 1,100MHz clock speed advantage. Ivy Bridge-E also has a nice 700MHz clock advantage than Haswell-E. Chalk this up as a big, huge win for Haswell-E.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/povray.png" alt="pov-ray" title="pov-ray" width="620" height="491" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>POV-Ray performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We wanted a second opinion on rendering performance, so we ran POV-Ray, a freeware ray tracer that has roots that reach back to the Amiga. Again, Haswell-E wins big-time with a 47 percent performance advantage over Devil’s Canyon and a 25 percent advantage over Ivy Bridge-E. Yeah, and all that stuff we said about the clock speed advantage the quad-core and six-core had, that applies here, too. Blah, blah, blah.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/premierepro.png" alt="premiere pro" title="premiere pro" width="620" height="474" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Premiere Pro CS6 performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">One sanity check (benchmark results Intel produces to let you know what kind of performance to expect) said Haswell-E would outperform quad-core Intel parts by 45 percent in Premiere Pro Creative Cloud when working with 4K content. Our benchmark, however, doesn’t use 4K content yet, so we wondered if our results would be similar. For our test, we render out a 1080p-resolution file using source material shot by us on a Canon EOS 5D Mk II using multiple timelines and transitions. We restrict it to the CPU rather than using the GPU as well. Our result? The 3.3GHz Haswell-E was about 45 percent faster than the 4.4GHz Devil’s Canyon chip. Bada-bing! The two extra cores also spit out the render about 19 percent faster than the six-core Ivy Bridge-E. That’s fairly consistent performance we’re seeing between the different workload disciplines of 3D rendering and video encoding so far, and again, big, big wins for the Haswell-E part.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/handbrake.png" alt="handbrake" title="handbrake" width="620" height="407" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Handbrake Encoding performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">For our encoding test, we took a 1080p-resolution video file and used Handbrake 0.9.9 to transcode it into a file using the Android tablet profile. Handbrake is very multi-threaded and leverages the CPU for its encoding and transcoding. Our results were still fairly stellar, with Haswell-E CPU performing about 38 percent faster than the Devil’s Canyon part. Things were uncomfortably close with the Ivy Bridge-E part though, with the eight-core chip coming in only about 13 percent faster than the six-core chip. Since the Ivy Bridge-E cores are slower than Haswell cores clock-for-clock, we were a bit surprised at how close they were. In the past, we have seen memory bandwidth play a role in encoding, but not necessarily Handbrake. Interestingly, despite locking all three parts down at 2,133MHz, the Ivy Bridge-E does provide more bandwidth than the Haswell-E part. One other thing we should mention: Intel’s “sanity check” numbers to let the media know what to expect for Handbrake performance showed a tremendous advantage for the Haswell-E. Against a Devil’s Canyon chip, Haswell-E was 69 percent faster and 34 percent faster than the Ivy Bridge-E chip. Why the difference? The workload. Intel uses a 4K-resolution file and transcodes it down to 1080p. We haven’t tried it at 4K, but we may, as Intel has provided the 4K-resolution sample files to the media. If true, and we have no reason to doubt it, it’s a good message for those who actually work at Ultra HD resolutions that the eight-cores can pay off. Overall, we’re declaring Haswell-E the winner here.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/x264pass1.png" alt="x264 pass 1" title="x264 pass 1" width="620" height="496" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>X264 HD 5.01 Pass 1 performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We’ve been using TechArp.com’s X264 HD 5.0.1 benchmark to measure performance on new PCs. The test does two passes using the freeware x264 encoding library. The first pass is seemingly a little more sensitive to clock speeds and memory bandwidth rather than just pure core count. A higher frame rate is better. The first pass isn’t as core-sensitive, and memory bandwidth clock speed have more dividends here. Haswell still gives you a nice 36 percent boost over the Devil’s Canyon but that Ivy Bridge-E chip, despite its older core microarchitecture, comes is only beaten by 12 percent—too close for comfort. Of course, we’d throw in the usual caveat about the very large clock differences between the chips, but we’ve already said that three times. Oh, and yes, we did actually plagiarize by lifting two sentences from a previous CPU review for our description. That’s OK, we gave ourselves permission.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X but not by much</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/x264pass2.png" alt="x264 pass 2" title="x264 pass 2" width="620" height="499" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>X264 HD 5.01 Pass 2 performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Pass two of the X264 HD 5.01 benchmark is more sensitive to core and thread counts, and we see the Haswell-E come in with a nice 46 percent performance advantage against the Devil’s Canyon chip. The Ivy Bridge-E, though, still represents well. The Haswell-E chip is “only” 22 percent faster than it. Still, this is a solid win for the Haswell-E chip. We also like how we’re seeing very similar scaling in multiple encoding tests of roughly 45 percent. With Intel saying it’s seeing 69 percent in 4K resolution content in Handbrake, we’re wondering if the Haswell-E would offer similar scaling if we just moved all of our tests up to 4K.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><strong>Click the next page for even more Haswell-E benchmarks.</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/stitch.png" alt="stitch" title="stitch" width="620" height="473" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Stitch.EFx 2.0 Performance&nbsp;</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Again, we like to mix up our workloads to stress different tasks that aren’t always multi-threaded to take advantage of a 12-core Xeon chip. For this test, we shot about 200 images with a Canon EOS 7D using a GigaPan motorized head. That’s roughly 1.9GB in images to make our gigapixel image using Stitch.EFx 2.0. The first third of the render is single-threaded as it stitches together the images. The final third is multi-threaded as it does the blending, perspective correction, and other intensive image processing. It’s a good blend of single-threaded performance and multi-threaded, but we expected the higher clocked parts to take the lead. No surprise, the Devil’s Canyon 4.4GHz advantage puts it in front, and the Haswell-E comes in about 14 percent slower with its 1.1GHz clock disadvantage. The clock speed advantage of the 4GHz Ivy Bridge-E also pays dividends, and we see the Haswell-E losing by about 10 percent. The good news? A dual-core Pentium K running at 4.7GHz coughed up a score of 1,029 seconds (not represented on the chart) and is roughly 22 percent slower than the CPU that costs about 11 times more.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4790K</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/7zip.png" alt="7-zip" title="7-zip" width="620" height="477" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>7-Zip Performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">The popular and free zip utility, 7-Zip, has a nifty built-in benchmark that tells you the theoretical file-compression performance a CPU. You can pick the workload size and the number of threads. For our test, we maxed it out at 16-threads using an 8MB workload. That gives the Haswell-E familiar advantage in performance—about 45 percent—over the Devil’s Canyon part. Against that Ivy Bridge-E part though, it’s another uncomfortably close one at 8 percent. Still, a win is a win even if we have to say that if you have a shiny Core i7-4960X CPU in your system, you’re still doing fine.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/sandra.png" alt="sisoft sandra" title="sisoft sandra" width="620" height="421" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Sisoft Sandra Memory Bandwidth (GB/s)</strong></span></p> <p>Since this is the first time we’re seeing DDR4 in a desktop part, we wanted to see how it stacked up in benchmarks. But, before you get too excited, remember that we set all three systems to 2133 data rates. The Devil’s Canyon part is dual-channel and the Ivy Bridge-E and Haswell-E are both quad-channel. With the memory set at 2133, we expected Haswell-E to be on par with the Ivy Bridge-E chip, but oddly, it was slower, putting out about 40GB/s of bandwidth. It’s still more than the 27GB/s the Devil’s Canyon could hit, but we expected it to be closer to double of what the Ivy Bridge-E was producing. For what it’s worth, we did double-check that we were operating in quad-channel mode and the clock speeds of our DIMMs. It’s possible this may change as the hardware we see becomes more final. We’ll also note that even at the same clock, DDR4 does suffer a latency penalty over DDR3. That would also be missing the point of DDR4, though. The new memory should give us larger modules and hit higher frequencies far easier, too, which will nullify that latency issue. Still, the winner is Ivy Bridge-E.</p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/3dmarkgpu.png" alt="3d mark" title="3d mark" width="620" height="457" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>3DMark Firestrike Overall Performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Even though 3DMark Firestrike is primarily a graphics benchmark, not having a 3DMark Firestrike score is like not having coffee in the morning. Basically, it’s a tie between all three chips, and 3DMark Firestrike is working exactly as you expect it to: as a GPU benchmark.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Tie</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/3dmarkphysics.png" alt="3d mark physics" title="3d mark physics" width="620" height="477" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>3DMark Firestrike Physics Performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">3DMark does factor in the CPU performance for its physics tests. It’s certainly not weighted for multi-core counts as other tests are, but we see the Haswell-E with a decent 29 percent bump over the Devil’s Canyon chip. But, breathing down the neck of the Haswell-E is the Ivy Bridge-E chip. To us, that’s damned near a tie. Overall, the Haswell-E wins, but in gaming tasks—at stock clocks—paying for an 8-core monster is unnecessary except for those running multi-GPU setups.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/valveparticle.png" alt="valve particle" title="valve particle" width="620" height="451" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Valve Particle Benchmark Performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Valve’s Particle test was originally developed to show off quad-core performance to the world. It uses the company’s own physics magic, so it should give some indication of how well a chip will run. We’ve long suspected the test is cache and RAM latency happy. That seems to be backed by the numbers because despite the 1.1GHz advantage the Devil’s Canyon chip has, the Haswell-E is in front to the tune of 15 percent. The Ivy Bridge-E chip though, with its large cache, lower latency DDR3, and assloads of memory bandwidth actually comes out on top by about 3 percent. We’ll again note the Ivy Bridge-E part has a 700MHz advantage, so this is a very nice showing for the Haswell-E part.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/dirtlow.png" alt="dirt showdown low" title="dirt showdown low" width="620" height="438" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Dirt Showdown low-resolution performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">For our gaming tests, we decided to run the games at 1366x768 resolution and at very low settings to take the graphics card out of the equation. In one way, you imagine this as what it would look like if you had infinitely powerful graphics cards in your system. As most games are not multi-threaded and are perfectly fine with a quad-core with Hyper-Threading, we fully expected the parts with the highest clock speeds to win all of our low-resolution, low-quality tests. No surprise, the Devil’s Canyon part at 4.4GHz private schools the 3.3GHz Haswell-E chip. And, no surprise, the 4GHz Ivy Bridge-E also eats the Haswell-E’s lunch and drinks its milk, too.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4790K</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/dirtultra.png" alt="dirt showdown ultra performance" title="dirt showdown ultra performance" width="620" height="475" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Dirt Showdown 1080p, ultra performance</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">To make sure we put everything in the right context, we also ran the Dirt Showdown at 1920x1080 resolution at Ultra settings. This puts most of the load on the single GeForce GTX 780 we used for our tests. Interestingly, we saw the Haswell-E with a slight edge over the Devil’s Canyon and Ivy Bridge-E parts. We’re not sure, but we don’t think it’s a very significant difference, but it’s still technically a win for Haswell-E.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/hitmanlow.png" alt="hitman low" title="hitman low" width="620" height="502" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Hitman: Absolution, low quality, low performance&nbsp;</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We did the same with Hitman: Absolution, running it at low resolution and its lowest settings. The Haswell-E came in about 12 percent slower the Devil’s Canyon part and 13 percent slower than the Ivy Bridge-E.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/hitmanultra.png" alt="hitman ultra" title="hitman ultra" width="620" height="479" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Hitman: Absolution, 1080p, ultra quality</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Again, we tick the settings to an actual resolution and quality at which people actually play. Once we do that, the gap closes slightly, with the Haswell-E trailing the Devil’s Canyon by about 8 percent and the Ivy Bridge-E by 9 percent. Still, these are all very playable frame rates and few could tell the difference.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/tombraider.png" alt="tomb raider low" title="tomb raider low" width="620" height="465" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Tomb Raider, low quality, low resolution.</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">We did the same low quality, low resolution trick with Tomb Raider and while need to see 500 frames per second, it’s pretty much a wash here.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Tie</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/tomraiderulti.png" alt="tomb raider ultra" title="tomb raider ultra" width="620" height="472" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Tomb Raider, 1080p, Ultimate</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">At normal resolutions and settings we were a little surprised, as the Haswell-E actually had a 15 percent advantage over the Devil’s Canyon CPU. We’re not exactly sure why, as the only real advantage we can see is memory bandwidth and large caches on the Haswell-E part. We seriously doubt it’s due to the number of CPU cores. The Haswell-E also has a very, very slight lead against the Ivy Bridge-E part, too. That’s not bad considering the clock penalty it’s running at.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-5960X</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/metrolastlight.png" alt="metro last light low" title="metro last light low" width="620" height="503" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Metro Last Light, low resolution, low quality</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">In Metro Last light, at low settings it’s a wash between all of them.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Tie</span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><img src="/files/u154082/metroveryhigh.png" alt="metro last light high" title="metro last light high" width="620" height="502" /></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;"><strong>Metro Last Light, 1080p, Very High quality</strong></span></p> <p><span style="color: #000000;">Metro at high-quality settings mirrors that of Hitman: Absolution, and we think favors the parts with higher clock speeds. We should also note that none of the chips with the $500 graphics card could run Metro at 1080p at high-quality settings. That is, of course, you consider 30 to 40 fps to be “smooth.” We don’t. Interestingly, the Core i7-4690X was the overall winner.</span></p> <p><span style="color: #333399;">Winner: Core i7-4960X</span></p> <p><strong>Conclusion:</strong> If you skipped to the very last page to read the conclusion, you’re in the wrong place. You need to go back to page 4 to read our conclusions and what you should buy. And no, we didn’t do this to generate just one more click either though that would be very clever of us wouldn’t it?</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/haswell-e_review_2014#comments benchmarks cpu haswell e intel ivy bridge e maximum pc processor Review Specs News Reviews Features Tue, 09 Sep 2014 23:03:30 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28431 at http://www.maximumpc.com Maingear Epic Force Video Review http://www.maximumpc.com/maingear_epic_force_video_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>See what a $12,000 gaming rig looks like</h3> <p>One of the best parts of this job is getting to play with hardware we can’t afford. For this video, Gordon walks you through Maingear’s Epic Force which is a tour de force of beautiful plumbing even Mario would be proud of. The machine, delivered to us before Intel’s epic Core i7-5960X “<a title="haswell e" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/haswell-e_review_2014" target="_blank">Haswell-E</a>” is built on an overclocked Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” chip and packs a pair of water cooled Radeon R9 295 X2 graphics cards.</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/yNoxJJ70se0" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>What do you think of the Maingear Epic Force PC? Let us know in the comments below.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/maingear_epic_force_video_review_2014#comments big chassis Desktop Hardware maingear epic force maximum pc MPCTV pc Review video Reviews Systems Mon, 08 Sep 2014 21:05:28 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28498 at http://www.maximumpc.com Dell UltraSharp UP2414Q Review http://www.maximumpc.com/dell_ultrasharp_up2414q_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>The 4K monitor you’ve been waiting for?</h3> <p>Call it 4K. Call it UltraHD. Either way, massive pixel counts are the next big thing. This year’s festival of rampant consumerism at CES in Las Vegas is a case in point. Inevitably, a ton of 4K HDTVs filled the field of view in every direction, but the show also included several 4K and UHD laptops. Meanwhile, phones with full 1080p grids are becoming commonplace. Likewise, tablets with panels over 1080p, including Google’s 2560x1600-pixel Nexus 10, are now almost routine.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dell_ultrasharp_up2414q_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dell_ultrasharp_up2414q_small.jpg" width="620" height="545" /></a></p> <p>But what of the PC? Sadly, it’s been a bit of a 4K laggard to date. So far, we’ve only reviewed a single 4K PC monitor, the Asus PQ321. It’s absolutely, positively gorgeous, but also punitively priced at around $3,000. So expensive, in other words, that it’s pretty much irrelevant to most PC lovers.</p> <p>That’s actually rather ironic, because of all the devices out there, the PC is nearest to ready-and-able to make the most of 4K resolutions right now. 4K HDTVs, quite frankly, are a gimmick; there’s simply no content to watch on them yet. Super-high-resolution tablets and phones are marginal, too. But not PCs. Ramp up the res and you can immediately enjoy the boost in desktop elbow room, although you may run into scaling and DPI problems with Windows (more on that a bit later). Applications in the video and photo editing spheres certainly benefit from more pixels. Then there’s gaming, which is the biggie for us, though the argument here is more finely balanced.</p> <p>In theory, you can run pretty much any game at full 4K. Most will offer the option to render at the maximum resolution of your graphics subsystem. And render they will. The only snag involves achieving that at playable frame rates. As we explained in our Asus PQ321 review, 4K/UHD is essentially four times the resolution of a 1080p pixel grid, so that’s four times the workload for your GPU to cope with. Cripes. So, it’s into this broader context that we introduce our second-ever 4K PC monitor review.</p> <p>The specimen in question this time is Dell’s new UltraSharp UP2414Q. It sports the same 3840x2160 resolution as the groundbreaking Asus PQ321, but there are two significant differences. The first of these is price; the new Dell can be had for slightly under $1,300—less than half the cost of the Asus. That’s still not exactly cheap for a monitor, but it’s much, much more accessible.</p> <p>The second major change-up involves panel proportions. The Dell spans a mere 24 inches—so that’s $1,300 for a 24-inch monitor. Yikes. Of course, you could argue that it’s resolution and not size that determines desktop real estate, and you’d be right, but some people will still balk at the very notion of paying so much for a panel size that can be had for little more than $120 these days.</p> <p>The UP2414Q’s general metrics are your typical IPS fare, with 178-degree viewing angles for both the horizontal and vertical planes. Likewise, the claimed static contrast of 1,000:1 is very much par for the course, and the UP2414Q’s 8ms quoted response is the same as other cutting-edge IPS panels.</p> <p>Of course, all of that means there are some superior options available by some measures. IPS technology is all the rage, but in truth, TN tech is better for pixel response and VA panels offer far superior contrast. Overall, IPS is still the best compromise—just don’t fall into the trap of assuming it’s universally superior. It ain’t quite that simple.</p> <p>Elsewhere, there’s an LED backlight and brightness rated at 350cd/m2, and a super-fine pixel density of 185PPI. As for inputs, the UP2414Q has one HDMI, one DisplayPort, and one Mini DisplayPort. Thanks to the super-high resolution, it’s only the DisplayPort that offers full native operation. The lone HDMI port is limited to HDMI 1.4, and you need HDMI 2.0 for 4K at 60Hz. Finally, there’s a fully adjustable chassis, complete with tilt, rotate, swivel, and height tweakability.</p> <p>What is it actually like to look at? Utterly stunning, is the first impression. Even the epic Asus can’t match the crispness and sharpness that you get from cramming all those pixels into such a relatively small panel.</p> <p>As with super-high DPI phones and tablets, you almost don’t feel like you’re looking at an active display at all. You essentially can’t see the individual pixels—they’re simply too small—which gives the UP2414Q a wonderfully seamless feel.</p> <p>The colors are exquisite, too, though admittedly, no more so than many other high-end IPS screens; they all look spectacular these days. The same goes for the results in our objective image quality test. Gradient rendering, viewing angles, white and black scales—they’re all absolutely immaculate and super sexy&shy;—again, just like other pricey IPS screens.</p> <p>Then, there’s actually using this 4K beauty for multimedia entertainments. Not that there’s much 4K video content to watch, but what there is, by the lords of science, is gorgeous! It more or less ruins standard 1080p HD content for you. Once you’ve seen 4K, there’s almost no going back.</p> <p>The same goes for gaming, except this time round, the narrative is a little bit more complicated and depends on what kind of GPU you’re packing. We decided to take the UP2414Q for a spin courtesy of&nbsp; an Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti, the fastest single graphics card you can buy right now, and it can only just cope with that colossal native resolution at full detail gaming in moderately demanding titles.</p> <p>Speaking of technologies that aren’t ready for 4K and super-high DPI displays, you can add Windows to the list. Even the latest 8.1 build of Windows does a poor job of scaling, and believe us, you really will want to enable some kind of scaling. If you try running the UP2414Q at native resolution, with standard Windows DPI and standard font size settings, everything on the screen looks preposterously tiny. It just isn’t usable. Even If you fiddle around with the fonts and text scaling, you’ll still hit problems. Sure, you can achieve something legible, and we’d even concede that many core elements of the Windows 8.1 desktop interface, including Windows Explorer, scale nicely and look superb. Unfortunately, most third-party apps look, if you’ll pardon the colloquialism, utterly ass. What you get is a blurred, blown-up bitmap that makes everything look soft and fuzzy. The same goes for nearly all web pages and the Steam interface. The harsh truth is that much of the computing world isn’t ready for high-DPI displays, and that becomes all too apparent as soon as you fire up the UP2414Q.</p> <p>Windows 8.1’s Modern UI is properly scalable, and looks crisp and clean for the most part, but it’s probably not the bit of Windows most people will be planning to use predominantly with a monitor that’s not touch-enabled.</p> <p>All of which makes this 24-inch 4K monitor a tricky proposition. It looks absolutely fantastic, but at this stage, it’s probably of more interest to content-creation professionals than PC performance and gaming enthusiasts. Instead, it could well be a TN panel that is larger and half the price that makes ultra-HD resolutions a practical, affordable prospect for gaming and other desktop PC applications.</p> <p><strong>$1,300,</strong> <a href="http://www.dell.com/">www.dell.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/dell_ultrasharp_up2414q_review#comments 4k Dell UltraSharp UP2414Q Hardware maximum pc May issues 2014 monitor panel Review screen Reviews Wed, 03 Sep 2014 18:45:11 +0000 Jeremy Laird 28459 at http://www.maximumpc.com Corsair Hydro H105 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/corsair_hydro_h105_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>The H75’s big brother is not too shabby</h3> <p>Over the past couple of years or so, we gearheads have transitioned from membrane keyboards to mechanical ones; from mechanical hard drives to SSDs; and from air-cooling our CPUs to using closed liquid loops. All favorable moves, though the latter group suffers from a lack of variety. You can get radiators in 120mm, 240mm, and 280mm sizes, but they’re almost all painted plain black with black tubing, although some include the small style concession of a glowing logo on the pump housing. Part of this has to do with just a handful of companies designing coolers for a large number of brands. This plainness may be a drag in a tricked-out rig, but in the case of the Corsair H105, we’ve discovered that a lack of fanciness can be an advantage.</p> <p>Corsair’s H105 radiator is thicker than usual (38mm instead of 27mm), and there’s a silver ring on the top of the pump that can be switched out for a red or blue one. But it’s not reinventing any wheels. Its tubing isn’t thick, and its pump isn’t very large. But you’ll notice how easily it installs in your system. There’s just one basic fan cable for the pump, which you can plug into any header on the motherboard, or directly into the power supply with a Molex adapter. The pump has two speeds: on and off. The fans use PWM control, so they’ll spin up and down smoothly, according to temperature readings. Just attach them to the bundled standard splitter cable, then connect that to the motherboard’s CPU fan header. And there’s no software this time; you just use your motherboard’s fan controls instead.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/corsair_hydro_h105_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/corsair_hydro_h105_small.jpg" alt="Since this pump does not offer variable speeds, it can be plugged directly into the power supply for maximum effectiveness." title="Corsair Hydro H105" width="620" height="505" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Since this pump does not offer variable speeds, it can be plugged directly into the power supply for maximum effectiveness.</strong></p> <p>Our test bed’s Rampage IV Extreme motherboard has Windows-based software called “Fan Xpert” that intelligently controls fan speeds. We ran our torture test with the H105’s fans set to “Quiet” in Fan Xpert, and got a pretty respectable 70 Celsius. When pushed to “Turbo” mode, the fans spun up to about 2,000rpm and lowered CPU temps to 65C. These aren’t the lowest temperatures we’ve seen, but they’re still pretty respectable, and the H105’s noise levels were surprisingly good. However, we couldn’t get a clear picture of how much the thickness of the radiator compensated for the modest diameter of the tubing and size of the pump. Those two properties seem to give the Cooler Master Glacer 240L and Nepton 280L an edge. But at press time, the H105 cost less at most stores than the Glacer (we suspect partly because the Glacer is an expandable system), and the Nepton has a 280mm cooler that doesn’t fit in a lot of cases.</p> <p>If you want a liquid-cooling system with a 240mm radiator, and you don’t care about expandability, then the ease of installation, ease of use, and manageable noise levels of the H105 make it hard to beat for the price. And like all Corsair liquid coolers, it gets a five-year warranty, whereas the competition usually gives you two or three years of coverage. On the other hand, the radiator’s extra 11mm of thickness makes it too large for certain cases. Corsair says that the cooler is compatible with “the vast majority” of chassis, but its list leaves off a number of seemingly workable cases of its own, such as the Carbide 500R and the Graphite 600T. If you can spend more money, there are slightly better coolers out there, but the H105 is a well-rounded package.</p> <p><strong>$120,</strong> <a href="http://www.corsair.com/en">www.corsair.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/corsair_hydro_h105_review#comments Air Cooling Corsair Hydro H105 cpu Hardware maximum pc May issues 2014 Review water cooler Reviews Wed, 03 Sep 2014 18:39:38 +0000 Tom McNamara 28444 at http://www.maximumpc.com Intel NUC D54250WYKH Review http://www.maximumpc.com/intel_nuc_d54250wykh_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>You can stuff 3TB of storage into this baby</h3> <p>Intel’s cool Next Unit of Computing (NUC) PCs have one serious limitation compared to say an All-In-One PC: storage. With room for just a single mSATA drive, NUC storage was limited to about 1TB. That’s no longer the case, though, thanks to the NUC D54250WYKH, which accepts 2.5-inch drives in addition to mSATA devices.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/intel_nuc_d54250wykh_small_0.png"><img src="/files/u152332/intel_nuc_d54250wykh_small.png" alt="We were sorely tempted to ding the D54250WYKH a point for its boring, annoying name." title="Intel NUC D54250WYKH" width="620" height="612" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We were sorely tempted to ding the D54250WYKH a point for its boring, annoying name.</strong></p> <p>Yup, if you enjoy memorizing Intel SKU numbers to impress people at cocktail parties, you’ll recognize that the NUC D54250WYKH is just one letter different from sibling, the NUC D54250WYK, which we reviewed in our March Ultra Compact SFF roundup. Besides the extra H, the obvious difference is the increased height of this NUC. The unit is about half an inch taller but retains the standard 4.5-inch by 4.5-inch width and depth of all NUCs. The increased depth is to accommodate the installation of a 2.5-inch SATA drive. You may scoff at the notion of a 2.5-inch tray having an impact on a system’s storage, but the alternative is the single mSATA slot, which is far more limited. There’s enough room inside to stuff a standard 9.5mm SSD or HDD, and while you won’t get a 4TB hard drive inside, you can get Seagate’s 2TB 9mm Spinpoint M9T to fit. Even better, you can use the M9T for bulk storage and still run your OS from an mSATA drive. The 2.5-inch tray also gives budget-minded builders the option to run much cheaper 2.5-inch SSDs instead of pricey mSATA drives.</p> <p>Inside, you’ll find an mSATA slot, a mini PCIe slot for wireless, and a pair of low-voltage DDR3 SO-DIMM slots. The NUC supports RAM speeds up to DDR3/1600, and Intel means it. We tried to push it further with a pair of low-voltage 8GB G.Skill DDR3/1866, but got occasional bluescreens, so it looks like this NUC is stuck at DDR3/1600. That’s unfortunate, because a little more memory bandwidth would certainly help the graphics performance.</p> <p>Speaking of performance, we feel pretty good scoring the performance of this NUC, now that we’ve had half a dozen of these pint-sized PCs through the lab. Our zero-point is the older Ivy Bridge–based NUC. That unit runs a 1.8GHz Core i3-3217U with HD4000 graphics, so it’s a dual-core part with Hyper-Threading but no Turbo Boost. The new “fat NUC,” as we call it, easily slams the older Ivy Bridge unit by a significant margin, thanks to its Turbo Boost and newer Haswell cores. Interestingly, we expected the performance of this NUC to be the same as the NUC D54250WYK we reviewed last month since both units use the same motherboard and CPU. All Intel really did was add the 2.5-inch drive tray and increase the size of the unit, but otherwise they are the same. While both perform about the same in most of the benchmarks, the taller NUC had the edge in gaming. Why? We suspect driver updates after we originally ran our tests. In practical gaming, you shouldn’t have high expectations. The 10-year-old Counter Strike: Source is very playable at greater than 60 fps at 1080p, and Counter Strike: GO ran well, too. We also ran Minecraft at about 40–50 fps (although the game can scale up with high-res textures). In CPU-intensive chores, though, the Fat NUC fares well. It’s certainly not in the same league as Gigabyte’s Kick Ass Brix Pro, but for most things people will do with a NUC, it’s more than enough and actually quieter than the Brix Pro, too. At the end of the day, it is still just a dual-core part.</p> <p>We like this new NUC as much as we liked the Intel NUC D54250WYK, being as they’re, well, almost the same. There is a cost premium for the thicker unit, but for someone who intends to store a lot of files or use it as an HTPC box, it’s well worth it.</p> <p><strong>$460;</strong> <a href="http://www.intel.sg/content/www/xa/en/homepage.html">www.intel.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/intel_nuc_d54250wykh_review#comments cpu d54250wykh Hardware Intel NUC review May issues 2014 pocket portable pc raspberry pi small tiny Reviews Systems Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:50:22 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28434 at http://www.maximumpc.com Maingear Pulse 17 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/maingear_pulse_17_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A large, light gaming laptop marred by several flaws</h3> <p>Like the <a title="ibuypower battalion" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/ibuypower_battalion_m1771-2_review" target="_blank">iBuypower Battalion</a> laptop we previously reviewed, Maingear’s Pulse 17 is aimed at enthusiasts who want a large gaming laptop but don’t want to kill themselves lugging it around.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/maingear_pulse_17_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/maingear_pulse_17_small.jpg" alt="You can customize the backlit LED keyboard’s colors to your heart’s content." title="Maingear Pulse" width="620" height="741" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You can customize the backlit LED keyboard’s colors to your heart’s content.</strong></p> <p>The 17.3-inch Pulse 17 fits the bill in screen real estate, and at 0.8-inches thick and 6 pounds, it’s in line with the thinnest laptops while maintaining a manageable weight. However, what it saves you in weight, it eats up in footprint, with a 16.5-inch by 11.2-inch spot on your desk. It’s large enough that it won’t fit in most normal-sized laptop backpacks.</p> <p>Though it uses the same chassis as iBuypower’s Battalion, Maingear says that unlike that machine, its Pulse 17 gives customers the option to opt for a wireless AC network card (for an additional $50), the widest array of SSD options (up to two MSATA 256GB SSDs in RAID 0), and a custom lid paint job. You can choose among a wide variety of colors (we opted for the “Alpine White” coat for a clean look), and while that’s certainly appreciated, the paint job is a little rough around the edges of the Main Gear logo on the lid. That cuts two ways, though; a decal would be cleaner, but then it’s a decal, not a custom paint job.</p> <p>Even though that’s certainly a small gripe, the build quality in general seemed a little subpar. The chassis allows quite a bit of flex, making it impossible to pick up the notebook without hearing it creak. In addition, one of its rubber feet fell off, which is annoying and further indication of a substandard build. The notebook’s keyboard is similarly lackluster; its keys lack a firm tactile response. We also had an issue with the space bar intermittently failing to register presses. Unfortunately, its ELAN trackpad was unresponsive when it came to two-finger scrolling. Even worse is the gesture used for two-finger scrolling, which is counter to how smartphones maneuver, with no way to change it in settings. We wish we could say that the panel and speakers made up for these shortcomings, but both the TN panel and the speakers were meh.</p> <p>Thankfully, the laptop’s performance is very respectable, especially when you consider its form factor. Inside, you’ll find a quad-core 2.4GHz Core i7-4700HQ CPU, 16GB of DDR3/1600, and the most popular GPU for ultra-thin gaming laptops today: a GeForce GTX 765M.</p> <p>While the Pulse 17’s graphics card score tied our Alienware 14 zero-point laptop (which also uses a GeForce GTX765M), the Pulse 17 was able to outperform it by 5 percent in both our Metro: Last Light and BioShock Infinite benchmarks.</p> <p>What this amounts to in real-world terms is average frame rates in the high 50s playing BioShock Infinite on “medium” settings. It wasn’t quite as impressive CPU-side, though, falling in line with Alienware’s very similar Core i7-4700MQ chip in single-threaded tasks, but faltering 6 percent in our multithreaded x264 test. It also wasn’t quite as energy-efficient as the Alienware 14, but its 6-cell battery did last around 3.5 hours in our video rundown test, which is actually longer than the majority of gaming laptops we’ve reviewed, especially compared to iBuypower’s similarly spec’d Battalion notebook, which couldn’t even make it to 2.5 hours.</p> <p>Where the iBuypower laptop really has the advantage over the Maingear, however, is in price. At $2,400, the Pulse 17 costs a whopping $540 more with very similar specs. Yowza! The added expense likely comes down to the custom paint job that Maingear offers, and the company’s two-year warranty program versus the one-year warranty that iBuypower provides. If you don’t care about those added features, but are still interested in the laptop, we recommend going with iBuypower’s product.</p> <p><strong>$2,400,</strong> <a href="http://www.maingear.com/">www.maingear.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/maingear_pulse_17_review_2014#comments Business Notebooks Hardware maingear maximum pc May issues 2014 Review Reviews Thu, 28 Aug 2014 00:35:39 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28445 at http://www.maximumpc.com Broken Age Review http://www.maximumpc.com/broken_age_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Two stories, tons of creativity, yummy ice cream, no grog</h3> <p>That’s fair advice for the half of you who will start out Broken Age in a miserable funk instead of a monster-filled fairy tale. At least, that’s how we felt when we initially began our trip through Tim Schafer’s imaginative title—the first half of a two-part, point-and-click adventure from the industry veteran whose previous credits stand well on their own within the genre: Day of the Tentacle, The Secret of Monkey Island, Full Throttle, et cetera.</p> <p>The game splits the two protagonists’ (seemingly) separate story lines right from the start. We started our journey with the boy, Shay, but found the initial ramp-up to his adventure a bit too convincing.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/2_small_26.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/2_small_25.jpg" alt="It’s no Mystery Science Theater movie warning, that’s for sure." title="Broken Age" width="620" height="388" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>It’s no Mystery Science Theater movie warning, that’s for sure.</strong></p> <p>Without spoiling too much of the plot, Shay is trapped on a spaceship that goes above and beyond to protect him from the harshness of growing up. Shay could not be any more apathetic to the idea of daily life with his “mother,” a benevolent, computerized AI of sorts, who washes him, feeds him his daily cereal, and sends him on “adventures” that end in hugs, piles of ice cream, and, most likely, a bout of depression.</p> <p>The other protagonist of this half-game, Vella, presents a more compelling story line. In this case, you’re playing the classic damsel in distress. Rather than being eaten by a giant monster as part of her town’s sacrificial ritual to avoid destruction, she decides to go on a one-woman crusade to slay said monster herself.</p> <p>While Vella’s story line is a bit more action-packed—or at least, feels more so as a result of its classic slay-the-dragon-like premise—we actually found ourselves more proud of our experience in Shay’s adventure. Our favorite moment involved trying to find a way to “kill” our character, for lack of a better way to say it, in order to see if his daily monotony could be averted somehow. Spoiler: It can.</p> <p>That’s the most challenging example of the game’s puzzles that we could come up with, as Broken Age feels perfectly balanced between “breeze on by” and “consult game FAQs” for its overall difficulty. You get just enough quirky items to keep you thinking about what goes where without feeling overwhelmed with options—this isn’t a 20-item-inventory, combine-every-gizmo kind of adventure title.</p> <p>While Broken Age features no hint system, which might frustrate those looking for an extra boost or two in some head-scratching moments, you do have the option to switch between the two separate”story lines at a moment’s notice. Think Day of the Tentacle, only, your actions in the two stories don’t affect each other—a somewhat curious oversight that we hope developer Double Fine Productions changes up in the game’s second half.</p> <p>There’s no real point to spending much time talking about the game’s graphics, as you’ll fall in love with the beautiful visuals the moment you start adventuring. Kudos to Broken Age’s original orchestration as well—it’s the bread keeping the delicious presentation together. Sharp writing, endless wit, and excellent characterization (with similarly awesome voice talent) all work in tandem to deliver a welcome arrival to a genre whose blockbuster titles are not always at the forefront of gamers’ minds.</p> <p>You won’t forget Broken Age; in fact, we think you’ll be clamoring for quite a while to see how chapter one’s big cliffhanger ends up. More, Tim Schafer! More!</p> <p><strong>$25,</strong> <a href="http://www.brokenagegame.com/">www.brokenagegame.com</a><strong><a href="http://www.brokenagegame.com/">,</a> ESRB: n/a</strong></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/broken_age_review_2014#comments Broken Age maximum pc May issues 2014 Software Software Reviews Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:57:20 +0000 David Murphy 28383 at http://www.maximumpc.com OCZ Vertex 460 240GB Review http://www.maximumpc.com/ocz_vertex_460_240gb_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Rumors of its death were greatly exaggerated</h3> <p>That last time we heard from OCZ was back before the end of 2013, when the company was in the grips of bankruptcy and nobody was sure what its future held. Fast forward to March 2014, and things are looking rather good for the formerly beleaguered company, much to everyone’s surprise. Rather than simply dissolve and fade away like we had feared, the company has been acquired by storage behemoth Toshiba, and is now operating as an independent subsidiary.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/vertex460_lrg_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/vertex460_lrg_small.jpg" alt="OCZ’s new drive has a more subdued, corporate look to it, thanks to a takeover by “the man.”" title="OCZ Vertex 460 240GB" width="620" height="449" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>OCZ’s new drive has a more subdued, corporate look to it, thanks to a takeover by “the man.”</strong></p> <p>The best news is OCZ’s NAND-acquisition troubles are seemingly a thing of the past, as Toshiba is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of NAND. So, it is no surprise that the first drive we’re seeing from the new venture is essentially a reborn Vector drive, only with Toshiba NAND flash. Dubbed the Vertex 460, this “new” drive blends the company’s proprietary Barefoot 3 controller found on its high-end Vector drives with Toshiba’s 19nm MLC NAND flash, so it’s ditching the Micron NAND it used previously. The result is basically a slight watering-down of its Vector 150 drive in order to make it more affordable and consumer-friendly. It also needed to bring its Barefoot 3 controller over to its mainstream line of Vertex-branded drives, so this drive accomplishes that feat, as well.</p> <p>In many ways, the Vertex 460 is very similar to the company’s recent Vector 150 drive, the only difference being the Vector has a five-year warranty and has a higher overall endurance rating to reflect its use of binned NAND flash. The Vertex 460 is no slouch, though, and is rated to handle up to 20GB of NAND writes per day for three years. The drive also utilizes over-provisioning, so 12 percent of the drive is reserved for NAND management by the Barefoot 3 controller. Though you lose some capacity, you gain longer endurance and better performance, so it’s a worthwhile trade-off. The Vertex 460 also offers hardware encryption support, which is very uncommon for a mainstream drive, and though we’d never use it, it’s nice to have options. Otherwise, its specs are par for the course in that it’s a 7mm drive and is available in 120GB, 240GB, and 480GB flavors. It’s also bundled with a 3.5-inch bay adapter as well as a copy of Acronis True Image, which is appreciated.</p> <p>When we strapped the Vertex to our test bench, we saw results that were consistently impressive. In every test, the Vertex 460 was very close to the fastest drives in its class, and in all scenarios it’s very close to saturating the SATA bus, so it’s not really possible for it to be any faster. It had no problem handling small queue depths of four commands in ATTO, and held its own with a 32 queue depth in Iometer, too. It was a minute slower than the Samsung 840 EVO in our Sony Vegas test, which writes a 20GB uncompressed AVI file to the drive, but also much faster than the Crucial M500 in the same test. Overall, there were no weak points whatsoever in its performance, but it is not faster than the Samsung 840 EVO, and its OCZ Toolbox software utility is extremely rudimentary compared to the Samsung app. Though the Vertex 460 is an overall very solid drive, it doesn’t exceed our expectations in any particular category. In other words, it’s a great SSD, but not quite Kick Ass.</p> <p><strong>$190,</strong> <a href="http://ocz.com/">www.ocz.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/ocz_vertex_460_240gb_review#comments Hard Drive Hardware HDD May issues 2014 OCZ Vertex 460 240GB Review solid state drive ssd Reviews Wed, 20 Aug 2014 14:16:12 +0000 Josh Norem 28382 at http://www.maximumpc.com Nvidia Shield Tablet Review http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_shield_tablet_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Updated: Now with video review!&nbsp;</h3> <p>Despite its problems, we actually liked <a title="Nvidia Shield review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_shield_review_2013" target="_blank">Nvidia’s original Shield Android gaming handheld</a>. Our biggest issue with it was that it was bulky and heavy. With rumors swirling around about a Shield 2, we were hoping to see a slimmer, lighter design. So consider us initially disappointed when we learned that the next iteration of Shield would just be yet another Android tablet. Yawn, right? The fact of the matter is that the Shield Tablet may be playing in an oversaturated market, but it’s still great at what it sets out to be.</p> <p><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/dGigsxi9-K4" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We've updated our review to include the video review above.</strong></p> <p>At eight inches, the Shield Tablet features a gorgeous 1900x1200 display, which shares the same resolution as Google’s flagship <a title="nexus 7 review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/google_nexus_7_review_2013" target="_blank">Nexus 7</a> tablet. At 13.1 ounces, the Shield Tablet is about three ounces heavier than the Nexus 7 but still a lot lighter than the original’s 1 lb. 4.7 ounces.&nbsp;</p> <p>Part of the weight increase with the Shield Tablet over the Nexus 7 is due to the extra inch that you’re getting from the screen, but also because the Shield Tablet is passively cooled and has an extra thermal shield built inside to dissipate heat. It’s a little heavier than we like, but isn’t likely to cause any wrist problems. On the back of the Shield is an anti-slip surface and a 5MP camera, and on the front of the tablet is a front-facing 5MP camera and two front-facing speakers. While the speakers are not going to blow away dedicated Bluetooth speakers, they sound excellent for a tablet. In addition to the speakers, the Shield Tablet has a 3.5mm headphone jack up at the top. Other ports include Micro USB, Mini HDMI out, and a MicroSD card slot capable of taking up to 128GB cards. Buttons on the Shield include a volume rocker and a power button, which we found to be a little small and shallow for our liking.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/shield_tablet_exploded_view_black_bckgr.jpg" alt="Nvidia Shield Tablet guts" title="Nvidia Shield Tablet guts" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The guts of the Nvidia Shield Tablet.</strong></p> <p>All of this is running on the latest version of Android KitKat (4.4). Nvidia says that it will update the tablet to Android L within a few weeks of Google’s official release. If Nvidia’s original Shield is any indication of how well the company keeps up with OS updates, you should be able to expect to get the latest version of Android after a couple of weeks, if not a months, after release. Regardless, the Shield Tablet is running a pretty stock version of Android to begin with, the main difference being that Nvidia has pre-loaded the tablet with its Shield Hub, which is a 10-foot UI used to purchase, download, and launch games.</p> <p>Arguably, the real star of the tablet is Nvidia’s new Tegra K1 mobile superchip. The 2.2GHz quad-core A15 SOC features Nvidia’s Kepler GPU architecture and 192 CUDA cores along with 2GB of low-power DDR3. K1 supports many of the graphical features commonplace in GeForce graphics cards, including tesselation, HDR lighting, Global illumination, subsurface scattering, and more.</p> <p>In our performance benchmarks, the K1 killed it. Up until now, the original Shield’s actively cooled Tegra 4 is arguably one of the most, if not <em>the</em> most, powerful Android SOC on the market, but the K1 slaughters it across the board. In Antutu and GeekBench benchmark, we saw modest gains of 12 percent to 23 percent in Shield vs. Shield Tablet action. But in Passmark and GFX Bench’s Trex test, we saw nearly a 50 percent spread, and in 3DMark’s mobile Icestorm Unlimited test, we saw an astounding 90 percent advantage for the Shield Tablet. This is incredible when you consider that the tablet has no fans and a two-watt TDP. Compared to the second-gen Nexus 7, the Shield Tablet benchmarks anywhere from 77 percent to 250 percent faster. This SOC is smoking fast.</p> <p>In terms of battery life, Nvidia claims you’ll get 10 hours watching/surfing the web and about five hours from gaming with its 19.75 Wh battery. This is up 3.75 Wh up from Google’s Nexus 7 equivalent, and from our experiential tests, we found those figures to be fairly accurate if not a best-case scenario. It will pretty much last you all day, but you'll still want to let it sip juice every night.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/shield_tablet_shield_controller_war_thunder.jpg" alt="Shield Tablet review" title="Shield Tablet review" width="620" height="343" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The new wireless controller uses Wi-Fi Direct instead of Bluetooth for lower latency.</strong></p> <p>Of course, if you’re going to game with it, you’re going to need Nvidia’s new wireless Shield Controller. Sold separately for $60, the 11.2-ounce Shield Controller maintains the same button layout as the original Shield controller, but feels a lot lighter and is more comfortable to hold. While most Android game controllers operate over Bluetooth, Nvidia opted to go with Wi-Fi Direct, stating that it offers 2x faster response time and more bandwidth. The extra bandwidth allows you to plug a 3.5mm headphone into the controller and also allows you to link up to four controllers to the device, which is an appreciated feature when you hook up the tablet to your HDTV via the Shield Tablet’s <a title="shield console mode" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_sweetens_shield_console_android_442_kitkat_price_drop_199_through_april" target="_blank">Console Mode</a>. Other unique features of the controller include capacitive-touch buttons for Android’s home, back, and play buttons. There’s also a big green Nvidia button that launches Shield Hub. The controller also has a small, triangle-shaped clickable touch pad which allows you to navigate your tablet from afar. One quibble with it is that we wish the trackpad was more square, to at least mimic the dimensions of the tablet; the triangle shape was a little awkward to interface with. Another problem that we initially had with the controller was that the + volume button stopped working after a while. We contacted Nvidia about this and the company sent us a new unit, which remedied the issue. One noticeable feature missing from the controller is rumble support. Nvidia said this was omitted on the original Shield to keep the weight down; its omission is a little more glaring this time around, however, since there's no screen attached to the device.</p> <p>The controller isn’t the only accessory that you’ll need to purchase separately if you want to tap into the full Shield Tablet experience. To effectively game with the tablet, you’ll need the Shield Tablet cover, which also acts as a stand. Like most tablets, a magnet in the cover shuts off the Shield Tablet when closed, but otherwise setting up the cover and getting it to act as a stand is initially pretty confusing. The cover currently only comes in black, and while we’re generally not big on marketing aesthetics, it would be nice to have an Nvidia green option to give the whole look a little more pop. We actually think the cover should just be thrown in gratis, especially considering that the cheapest 16GB model costs $300. On the upside though, you do get Nvidia’s new passive DirectStylus 2 that stows away nicely in the body of the Shield Tablet. Nvidia has pre-installed note-writing software and its own Nvidia Dabbler painting program. The nice thing about Dabbler is that it leverages the K1’s GPU acceleration so that you can virtually paint and blend colors in real time. There’s also a realistic mode where the “paint” slowly drips down the virtual canvas like it would in real life.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/shield_tablet_shield_controller_trine2_0.jpg" alt="Shield tablet review" title="Shield tablet review" width="620" height="404" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Shield Controller is a lot lighter and less blocky than the original Shield Portable.</strong></p> <p>But that’s probably not why you’re interested in the Shield Tablet. This device is first and foremost a gaming tablet and even comes with a free Android copy of Trine 2. Trine 2 was originally a PC game and it’s made a great transition to the Shield Tablet. While the game was never known to be a polygon pusher, it looks just as good as it ever did on its x86 debut.&nbsp;</p> <p>With gaming as the primary driver for Shield Tablet, you may wonder why Nvidia didn’t bundle its new controller. The company likely learned from Microsoft’s mistake with Kinect and the Xbox One: Gamers don’t like to spend money and getting the price as low as possible was likely on Nvidia’s mind. Of course, not everyone may even want a controller, with the general lack of support for them in games. Nvidia says there are now around 400 Android titles that support its controller, but that’s only a small percentage of Android games and the straight truth is that the overwhelming majority of these games are garbage.&nbsp;</p> <p>Nvidia is making a push for Android gaming, however. The company worked with Valve to port over Half Life 2 and Portal to the Shield and they look surprisingly fantastic and are easily the two prettiest games on Android at the moment. Whether Android will ever become a legitimate platform for hardcore gaming is anyone’s guess, but at least the Shield Tablet will net you a great front seat if the time ever arises.</p> <p>Luckily, you won’t have to rely solely on the Google Play store to get your gaming fix. Emulators run just as well here as they did on the original Shield and this iteration of Shield is also compatible with Gamestream, which is Nvidia’s streaming technology that allows you to stream games from your PC to your Shield. Gamestream, in theory, lets you play your controller-enabled PC games on a Shield.</p> <p>At this point, Nvidia says Gamestream supports more than 100 games such as Batman: Arkham Origins and Titanfall from EA’s Origin and Valve’s Steam service. The problem, though, is that there are hundreds more games on Steam and Origin that support controllers—but not the Shield Tablet’s controller. For example, Final Fantasy VII, a game that we couldn’t get to work with the original Shield, still isn't supported even though it works with an Xbox controller on the PC. When Gamestream does work, however, it’s relatively lag-free and kind of wonderful. The one caveat here is that you’ll have to get a 5GHz dual-band router to effectively get it working.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/rh7fWdQT2eE" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Nvidia Shield Video demo.</strong></p> <p>Would we buy the Shield Tablet if we owned the original Shield (now renamed the Shield Portable)? Probably not. If we were looking for a new tablet and top-notch gaming performance was on the checklist, the Shield Tablet is easily the top contender today. We’d take it over the second-gen Nexus 7 in a heartbeat. While we understand why Nvidia decided to separate the cover and controller to keep the prices down and avoid the Kinect factor, we think a bundled package with a small price break as an alternative would have been nice. All things considered though, consider us surprised. The Shield Tablet is pretty dang cool.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>$300</strong></p> <p><em><strong>Update:</strong> The original article incorrectly labled the Shield Portable benchmarks with the Nexus 7 figures. The issue has been resolved and both benchmark charts are listed below.&nbsp;</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_shield_tablet_review_2014#comments android Google Hardware KitKat maximum pc nvidia portable Review shield tablet wireless controller News Reviews Tablets Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:36:57 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28263 at http://www.maximumpc.com Xidax M6 Mining Rig Review http://www.maximumpc.com/xidax_m6_mining_rig_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A gaming rig that pays for itself</h3> <p>Exotic car paint, multiple GPUs, and custom-built chassis’ be damned, boutique PC builder <a title="xidax" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/tags/Xidax" target="_blank">Xidax</a> thinks it has the sexiest sales pitch on the planet with its <strong>M6 Mining Rig</strong>: It pays for itself! Now, we can’t say this PC is basically “free” because it ain’t that, but Xidax says by using the box’s spare GPU cycles to mine for crypto-currency, this baby would be paid off in about four months. To be honest, it’s not something we’ve ever considered, as we’ve seen gaming rigs, and we’ve seen coining rigs, but never in the same box. It seems like a solid idea though, as the system can game during the day, then mine at night to help cover its cost.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/xidax_guts13979_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/xidax_guts13979_small.jpg" alt="The Xidax M6 Mining Rig comes set up with everything you need to start mining crypto-currancy almost right out of the box." title="Xidax M6 Mining Rig" width="620" height="676" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Xidax M6 Mining Rig comes set up with everything you need to start mining crypto-currancy almost right out of the box.</strong></p> <p>The system’s specs include a 3.4GHz Core i5-4670K with 16GB of RAM, a Corsair RM 850 PSU, closed-loop liquid cooler, 250GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD, 1TB WD Black, and a pair of Sapphire Radeon R9 290X cards. In application performance, it’s pretty pedestrian with its stock-clocked Core i5-4670K. Why not something more badass? Xidax says it weighed hardware choices carefully because the pricier the hardware, the longer it takes to pay off with crypto-coins. The Radeons are a wise choice, as they offer about twice the performance of Nvidia’s fastest GPUs in mining applications. Gaming is also quite excellent (obviously, for a two-card system), and its mining performance is impressive at 1.7 to 1.8 Kilohashes per second. (Hashes of the kilo/mega/giga variety are the units of measurement for mining productivity.)</p> <p>Xidax ships the PC ready to start mining operations almost right out of the box, which is normally a daunting task. It also includes a Concierge (or should we say coincierge) service that has a Xidax rep remotely connect to the rig and do a final tune on the box for maximum mining performance. On this particular machine, it came ready to mine for Doge Coins and was forecast to make about $21.60 a day, or $670 a month, on a 24/7 schedule—including electricity costs.</p> <p>What’s the catch? There are a few. First, it’s loud when mining. In fact, it’s so loud that you won’t be able to stand being in the same room with it. Second, you can’t do anything with it while it’s mining because all GPU resources are pegged to the max. Third, crypto-currency can be volatile. Bitcoin saw its value see-saw from $130 to $1,242 and then back to $455 and $900 in just four months. It could all go kaput in a few months, or who knows—the government might even step in and ruin the fun.</p> <p>Considering its performance outside of mining, the M6 Mining Rig is pricey at $3,000. However, the price includes a lifetime warranty on parts and service except for the GPUs. Those carry a five-year warranty, which is still surprisingly good, considering that board vendors are already making noises that they don’t want to eat the cost of dead boards killed by mining. Xidax says it will cover them, though. And—again—it pays for itself, right?</p> <p>That’s ultimately the appeal of the M6 Gaming Rig, but it has to be carefully considered by potential buyers. After all, anything that sounds too good to be true usually is, but then again, it is a powerful gaming PC that could theoretically pay for itself in a few months. And even if the market blew up, at least you’d still have a formidable gaming PC rather than just standing there with your RAM sticks in one hand. And if it works out, whoa baby, you just got a PC for free! –</p> <p><strong>$3,000,</strong> <a href="http://www.xidax.com/">www.xidax.com</a></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/xidax_benchmarks.png" alt="xidax benchmarks" title="xidax benchmarks" width="620" height="277" /></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/xidax_m6_mining_rig_review_2014#comments april issues 2014 bitcoin dogecoin Hardware maximum pc Review xidax m6 mining computer Reviews Systems Wed, 06 Aug 2014 16:42:51 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28234 at http://www.maximumpc.com