Hardware http://www.maximumpc.com/taxonomy/term/41/ en Small PC Computing http://www.maximumpc.com/small_PCs_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>We tour the burgeoning world of wee PCs</h3> <p>In case you haven’t noticed, the PC is getting smaller. But it’s not getting smaller in the way the PC fatalists see it. If anything, enthusiast PCs have gotten larger. Witness Corsair’s 900D, Cooler Master’s Cosmos SE, and Digital Storm’s Aventum II.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/opener_13639_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/opener_13639_small.jpg" alt="Yes, the Haswell Nuc is actually this small." width="620" height="446" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Yes, the Haswell Nuc is actually this small.</strong></p> <p>The truth isn’t that the PC is getting smaller and thus going away; the truth is that for enthusiasts, there’s interest in gigantic PCs, small micro-towers, and now—Intel hopes—ultra-compact form factor (UCFF) PCs no larger than a book. All of which serve unique purposes, and thereby highlight the PCs unmatched versatility.</p> <p>UCFF PCs as a category aren’t new, of course. They’ve been around for years, but their performance has always been fairly underwhelming and they’ve always consisted of specialty hardware, to be embedded into an ATM or smart soda machine.</p> <p>But now that these compact computers are more capable than ever, readily available, and easily built, there’s no telling what new and interesting applications will spring forth. Is Intel actually onto something big with its new Next Unit of Computing (NUC) initiative?</p> <h3>Next Unit of What?</h3> <p><strong>Intel’s push to make the desktop smallera</strong></p> <p>Trying to figure out the actions of the world’s largest chip company can be confounding to consumers who don’t fully appreciate Intel’s size-13 footprint on the PC industry and its ability to single-handedly change the game.</p> <p>Sometimes when Intel sees a niche it thinks needs to be filled, it tries to jump start it from scratch. The company tried and failed, for example, with its Common Building Block program that was meant to create a DIY-laptop world with standardized power bricks, hard drives, optical drives, LCD panels, keyboards, and battery packs. While CBB never took off, many of the fruits of that effort are still with us.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/page3art_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/page3art_small.jpg" alt="Intel is even offering a limited-edition customized Dragon NUC. " width="620" height="454" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Intel is even offering a limited-edition customized Dragon NUC. </strong></p> <p>Now, Intel is attempting to both create and fill a niche again with its Next Unit of Computing, or NUC (rhymes with “luck”), a new ultra-compact form factor that the company hopes will push performance computing into unheard-of places.</p> <p>Unlike the CBB program, which was totally reliant on the participation of parts makers and laptop builders, NUCs are actually built and sold by Intel itself. In a nutshell, NUCs are simply 4x4-inch computers packing as much power as possible.</p> <p>From what we can tell, Intel’s actions aren’t intended to drive others out of the market. In fact, Intel seems to be trying to invite others into the NUC game. Thus far, Gigabyte has jumped in with its NUC-style Brix boxes that are proving to be fairly innovative. There are also other smaller and lesser-known brands and embedded-PC vendors in there, as well.</p> <p>Unlike Thin ITX, NUC-style boxes aren’t designed around industry-standard specs. The only things common between the NUC and Brix, for example, are the footprint, the power brick, and other mobile components they accomodate. You won’t, for example, be able to swap a motherboard from a Brix into a NUC because these PCs are generally customized to the chassis they’re in.</p> <h4>Challenges to NUC</h4> <p>One of the challenges NUC and its ilk share is the limited board space. At 4x4 inches, jamming in features has meant adding more layers to the motherboard. While typical ATX motherboards feature six- or even four-layer PCBs, NUCs’ are 10-layer. <br />Adding layers isn’t cheap, either. For example, in a 10-layer ATX motherboard—which you might see with a dual-proc board, where additional layers are needed to run all the traces of both processors—the PCB itself costs about $90.</p> <p>The path going forward for NUC isn’t to blow them up in size, either. Rather than making them, say, 5x5 inches or more in the future, Intel says it’s more interested in getting a 65-watt TDP processor to work reliably in a package of NUC’s current size. Of course, adding a hotter CPU means more cooling and a bigger and more power-hungry power brick, too.</p> <h4>NUC Sales</h4> <p>So, are NUC and NUC-style devices resonating with consumers? Intel didn’t give us exact sales figures, but it says it has seen healthy demand, with quarter-on-quarter growth from 30–50 percent. Interestingly, Intel says that even after it offered a lower-cost Celeron version using the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture, the demand has mostly been at the high end, with consumers actually preferring the initial Ivy Bridge Core i5 version.</p> <p>That’s another reason Intel thinks that NUCs aren’t actually hurting the desktop. In fact, Intel believes the demand for a lot of performance, albeit in a tiny package, will reinvigorate the desktop, as people seek to put a PC in places they never could before.</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Intel NUC D54250WYK</h3> <p><strong>Haswell comes to the NUC</strong></p> <p>The original Intel NUC DC3217BY we saw in late 2012 was an odd duck. The case was maroon and black, and while it showcased Intel’s newfangled Thunderbolt connectivity, there were no Ethernet, USB 3.0, or analog audio out.</p> <p>Intel cited limited board space as the reason for the port selection on that model (to be fair, Intel did offer a dual-HDMI version with gigabit Ethernet and a single USB 3.0 port) and soldiered on despite the skepticism over the device. That’s good news because the latest NUC leaves few questions unanswered.</p> <p>The newest Haswell NUC D54250WYK shares the same footprint as the original NUC but sits about an eighth of an inch shorter. Rather than the Core i3-3217U in the original NUC, the top-end Haswell NUC features a 1.3GHz Core i5-4250U that will Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz. There’s no lack of ports on this unit, either. The Haswell NUC includes a Mini Display Port, Mini HDMI, gigabit Ethernet, four USB 3.0 ports, analog audio out, and an infrared port.</p> <p>The newest Haswell NUC D54250WYK shares the same footprint as the original NUC but sits about an eighth of an inch shorter. Rather than the Core i3-3217U in the original NUC, the top-end Haswell NUC features a 1.3GHz Core i5-4250U that will Turbo Boost up to 2.6GHz. There’s no lack of ports on this unit, either. The Haswell NUC includes a Mini Display Port, Mini HDMI, gigabit Ethernet, four USB 3.0 ports, analog audio out, and an infrared port.</p> <p>Internally, there’s a pair of DDR3 SO-DIMM slots and stacked Mini PCIe slots that let you install an mSATA drive and wireless card. The original NUC had overheating issues that caused some of the mSATA drives to error out. Intel has apparently addressed this by tweaking the fan and adding a thermal pad that rests on the mSATA drive. The shell in all NUCs is prewired for Wi-FI. The motherboard in this NUC also features a SATA 6Gb/s port and a port for SATA power, too. Intel apparently plans to use the same board in a future NUC that will be tall enough to support cheaper and far larger notebook hard drives. The motherboard itself is an Intel design and features a beautiful UEFI as well as the QS87 chipset.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/untitled-13221_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/untitled-13221_small.jpg" alt="After a puzzling first effort, Intel offers nearly all you could ask for in its NUC follow-up." width="620" height="522" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>After a puzzling first effort, Intel offers nearly all you could ask for in its NUC follow-up.</strong></p> <p>Performance isn’t a primary driver of people who run these mini PCs, but we decided to see how this Haswell NUC stacked up against the original NUC. That unit features a 1.8 Core i3-3217U CPU on the Ivy Bridge microarchitecture. Both NUCs are dual-core Hyper-Threaded parts, so the only real performance difference is due to the Turbo Boost of the Haswell and the newer microarchitecture. As expected, the Core i5 gives the original Ivy Bridge a pasting in CPU-related tasks. In graphics, it’s closer between the HD4000 and HD5000, but the Haswell part generally is in front. Oddly, the Ivy Bridge NUC comes out on top in 3DMark Ice Storm, which tests basic graphics performance, but falls back in 3DMark Cloud Gate. Neither NUC is suited for serious gaming, but in the 10-year-old Counter Strike: Source graphics stress test, both gave acceptable frame rates at 1080p.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">SPECIFICATIONS/Benchmarks</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>Haswell NUC</strong></td> <td><strong>Ivy Bridge NUC</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Model</td> <td class="item-dark">D54250WYK</td> <td>DC3217IYE</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>1.3GHz Core i5-4250U</td> <td>1.3GHz Core i5-4250U<br /><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Graphics</td> <td class="item-dark">HD5000</td> <td>HD4000</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Ports</td> <td>Mini HDMI 1.4a, DisplayPort 1.2, 4x USB 3.0, gigabit Ethernet, analog audio out, IrDA, Kensington lock port</td> <td>2x HDMI 1.4A, 3x USB 2.0, gigabit Ethernet, Kensington lock port</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stitch.EFx (sec)</td> <td><strong>1,747</strong></td> <td>2,453<strong><br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer (sec)</td> <td><strong>2,567</strong></td> <td>3,729</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark Cloud Gate</td> <td><strong>3,958</strong></td> <td>3,409</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark Ice Storm</td> <td>32,157</td> <td><strong>35,969</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Counter Strike Source (fps)</td> <td><strong>63.23</strong></td> <td>52.4</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Google Octane 2.0</td> <td><strong>17,832</strong></td> <td>10,643</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Consumption Idle (watts)</td> <td><strong>5</strong></td> <td>8</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Consumption Idle (watts)</td> <td><strong>24</strong></td> <td>35</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Consumption YouTube 1080p (watts)</td> <td>19</td> <td><strong>14.5</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Best scores are bolded. <br /></em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>We measured power consumption of both NUCs using the same power load and the same power brick (both were outfitted with similar parts, too). On idle, the Haswell unit drank about 5 watts versus the 8 watts of the Ivy Bridge unit. We also tried a worst-case scenario with Prime95 and Furmark running simultaneously. The Haswell used 24 watts to the Ivy Bridge’s 35W. While watching a 1080p video on YouTube, the Ivy Bridge unit used but 14.5 watts, interestingly, while the Haswell NUC used 19 watts.</p> <p>The Haswell NUC is likely the fastest NUC available today, as no one has figured out how to shoehorn a quad-core into the unit. But it’s not cheap. We found the unit on the street for about $375. Before you balk, remember that you’re getting a kit that includes the CPU and PSU. Yes, you can get a cheaper system by going larger—but if you want small and fast, this is the best yet.</p> <p><strong>Intel NUC D54250WYK</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>$375, <a href="http://www.intel.com/ " target="_blank">www.intel.com</a></strong></p> <h3>Gigabyte Brix Projector GB-BXPi3-4010</h3> <p>Intel’s goal with the NUC initiative was to create a new category of computing. What that category would be or how it would be used, the company didn’t really know when it started.</p> <p>While Gigabyte has several NUC-style clones, dubbed the “Brix” line, the one that really captured our interest is the Brix Projector. Yup, a UCFF PC with a DLP pico projector and 1.5-watt speaker integrated into it. The projector isn’t super bright, but it outputs a decent 75 ANSI-rated lumens. That means you won’t be using it outdoors in the daylight or in a very bright room, but it’s far better than the first 15-lumen pico projectors of yesteryear. It offers enough light that Gigabyte rates the device as being capable of projecting on a screen up to 85 inches. Resolution is also average at 864x480, or WVGA res, but that’s pretty standard for most pico projectors that are still actually “pico.” We’ll also note that lower resolutions are actually quite passable for media projection. Gigabyte even had the foresight to integrate a standard tripod mount into the base of the PC, too.</p> <p>Inside the Brix Projector you’ll find a pair of DDR3 SO-DIMM slots, and the same stacked layout to take mSATA and Wi-Fi cards as in Intel NUCs. External ports are also generous, with four USB 3.0, gigabit Ethernet, a Mini DisplayPort 1.2, full-size HDMI 1.4a, an analog jack that pulls double duty as optical SPDIF output, and a Mini HDMI-in port should you want to use the unit as a projector from another device.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">SPECIFICATIONS/Benchmarks</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>Brix Projector</strong></td> <td><strong>Ivy Bridge NUC</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Model</td> <td class="item-dark">GB-BXPi3-4010</td> <td>DC3217IYE</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>1.7GHz Core i3-4010U</td> <td>1.8 Core i3-3217U<br /><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Graphics</td> <td class="item-dark">HD4400</td> <td>HD4400</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Ports</td> <td>HDMI 1.4a, Mini HDMI in, Mini DisplayPort 1.2, gigabit Ethernet, 4x USB 3.0, analog audio, S/PDIF</td> <td>2x HDMI 1.4A, 3x USB 2.0, gigabit Ethernet, Kensington lock port</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stitch.EFx (sec)</td> <td><strong>2,441</strong></td> <td>2,453</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer (sec)</td> <td><strong>3,564</strong></td> <td>3,729</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark Cloud Gate</td> <td><strong>3,667</strong></td> <td>3,409</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark Ice Storm</td> <td>26,475</td> <td><strong>35,969</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Counter Strike Source (fps)</td> <td><strong>53.29</strong></td> <td>52.4</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Google Octane 2.0</td> <td><strong>11,624</strong></td> <td>10,643</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Consumption Idle (watts)</td> <td><strong>7.5</strong></td> <td>8</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Consumption Idle (watts)</td> <td><strong>24</strong></td> <td>35</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Consumption YouTube 1080p (watts)</td> <td>19</td> <td><strong>14.5</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Best scores are bolded. <br /></em></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/untitled-13223_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/untitled-13223_small_0.jpg" alt="Yup. There’s indeed a projector integrated into this PC that’s no bigger than a Wendy’s Baconator." width="620" height="502" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Yup. There’s indeed a projector integrated into this PC that’s no bigger than a Wendy’s Baconator.</strong></p> <p>The CPU in the model we reviewed is a Haswell 1.7GHz Core i3-4010U with HD4400 graphics. Again, extreme performance isn’t a key metric for people looking at this class of device, but we were still interested to see how it does against the Ivy Bridge Intel NUC DC3217IYE. Remember, both the Intel Ivy Bridge NUC and the Brix have Turbo Boost disabled at the factory. Despite the Ivy Bridge NUC having a 100MHz advantage, the Brix Projector was slightly faster in some tests. In other tests, though, both were dead even. Clearly, if you really need the performance in a UCFF, pony up for a Core i5 part.</p> <p>In general, power consumption on idle was slightly higher (using an external monitor) with the IB NUC; under our CPU- and GPU-heavy loads and simply playing a 1080p YouTube video, the Brix was on par with the Haswell Intel NUC. As with that PC, the Brix Projector consumed more power than the older Ivy Bridge NUC playing the 1080p video.</p> <p>Using the Brix Projector is a hoot. The graphics signal, you should know, is passed internally, so there’s no hooptie external pass-through cable. You can actually run both the projector and an external monitor simultaneously.</p> <p>Overall, it’s a slick little unit. The question is, what would a normal person need it for? The answer is, most of us wouldn’t need it. But don’t take that to be a negative. There are certainly specialized applications for it, such as media installations, commercial applications, or even an ad-hoc mini-theater setup for the kids. Again, it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but the fact that you can get a “real” computer with a 75-lumen projector is pretty mind-boggling.</p> <p><strong>Gigabyte Brix Projector</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>$600, <a href="http://www.gigabyte.us/ " target="_blank">www.gigabyte.us</a></strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h3>Gigabyte Brix Pro</h3> <p><strong>Faster than a tower. Really</strong></p> <p>In the land of ARM and off-brand x86 parts, the dual-core Core i3 is king. After all, when we talk about the “high-performance” needs of UCFF users, the performance of a Haswell-based CPU or even an Ivy Bridge part is like going back in time and landing a P-51 Mustang next to the Wright brothers after they just touched down at Kitty Hawk.</p> <p>Following that same analogy, you can think of Gigabyte’s blisteringly fast Brix Pro as an X-Wing fighter making a fly-by, wagging its wings, and then flipping the bird before making the jump to light speed. We’re not kidding, either. The Brix Pro is simply the fastest NUC-style UCFF we’ve ever tested. We actually watched it outpace our full-tower, six-core 3.2 Core i7-3630K that’s clocked full-time at 3.9GHz.</p> <p>The secret is Gigabyte’s ability to magically integrate a full-on Core i7-4770R in the Brix Pro. The Core i7-4770R “Crystalwell” is no mere Haswell part. Its main claim to fame is 128MB of super-fast embedded DRAM on the CPU package that acts as gigantic L4 cache (a Core i7-4770K’s L3 cache is 8MB). This cache greatly increases bandwidth for graphics operations and puts it on par with GeForce GT 650M discrete graphics. Since it acts as L4 cache, it can also greatly aid some application workloads, too. And no you can’t buy it, it’s only available soldered to motherboards. Oh, and it’s a full-on desktop-class quad-core Hyper-Threaded i7 chip that’ll hit 3.9GHz on Turbo.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">SPECIFICATIONS/Benchmarks</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>Brix Pro</strong></td> <td><strong>Ivy Bridge NUC</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Model</td> <td class="item-dark">GB-BXi7-4770R</td> <td>DC3217IYE</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>Core 3.2Ghz i7-4770R</td> <td>1.8 Core i3-3217U<br /><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Graphics</td> <td class="item-dark">Iris Pro 5200</td> <td>HD4000</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Ports</td> <td>HDMI 1.4a, DisplayPort 1.2, 4x USB 3.0, gigabit Ethernet, Kensington lock port</td> <td>2x HDMI 1.4a, 3x USB 2.0, gigabit Ethernet, Kensington lock port</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stitch.EFx (sec)</td> <td>867</td> <td>2,453<strong><br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer (sec)</td> <td><strong>1,410</strong></td> <td>3,729</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark Cloud Gate</td> <td><strong>10,406</strong></td> <td>3,409</td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark Ice Storm</td> <td><strong>68,195</strong></td> <td>35,969</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Counter Strike Source (fps)</td> <td><strong>149.43</strong></td> <td>52.4</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Google Octane 2.0</td> <td><strong>26,893</strong></td> <td>10,643</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Consumption Idle (watts)</td> <td>8</td> <td>8</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Consumption Idle (watts)</td> <td>87</td> <td><strong>35<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Consumption YouTube 1080p (watts)</td> <td>20</td> <td><strong>14.5</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>Best scores are bolded. <br /></em></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/untitled-13228_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/untitled-13228_small.jpg" alt="The Brix Pro packs in more performance per cubic inch than any system we’ve ever tested." width="620" height="481" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Brix Pro packs in more performance per cubic inch than any system we’ve ever tested.</strong></p> <p>Physically, the Pro is about 2.5 inches tall, making it about half an inch taller than the Intel Haswell NUC on page 51. That height, though, gives the Brix Pro the capability to mount a 9.5mm 2.5-inch notebook drive. The motherboard still has an mSATA slot, so you can run an SSD as well as one of the upcoming 2TB 9.5mm hard drives.</p> <p>Like other NUC-style machines, besides the mSATA slot, you’ll also find a mini PCIe slot that Gigabyte has already populated with an 802.11ac as well as two SO-DIMM slots. There’s a single integrated power and SATA connector for the 2.5-inch drive, as well.</p> <p>On the performance tip, as we said, the Brix Pro smokes all other NUCs. That’s not a surprise, as it’s a quad-core part going up against dual-core parts. And we don’t mean a wisp of smoke—it’s a full four-alarm smoke-out with the Brix Pro offering 200 percent performance increases over the Ivy Bridge NUC and from 82–163 percent increases over the Haswell NUC. This desktop Haswell-R part is so fast, it slightly outpaced our desktop zero-point system in ProShow Producer 5 and was slower by just 4 percent in Stitch.Efx 2.0 runs. Yes. Faster than a six-core overclocked machine that’s 30 times bigger. Granted, the tower will eat it in multithreaded tasks and gaming, but the fact that a machine smaller than a retail CPU box can be faster than a mid-tower machine is incredible.</p> <p>There’s a cost, though. When you’re hammering it with a heavy workload, it gets a little whiny. It’s not horrible, but you will hear the fan under very heavy loads. It also drinks more. The CPU has a TDP rating of 65 watts and under extreme CPU and GPU loads, we saw at-the-wall power usage hit near 90 watts. Most of the time though, power consumption is quite reasonable. The last issue is cost. This bare-bones kit will set you back $650. Much of that is the CPU ($400), but either way, we know there’s a price for miniaturization. At least with the Brix Pro, you’re getting a hell of a lot of performance.</p> <p><strong>Gigabyte GB-BXi7-4770R</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_9ka.jpg" alt="score:9ka" title="score:9ka" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$650, <a href="http://www.gigabyte.us/ " target="_blank">www.gigabyte.us</a></strong></p> <h3>DIY NUC</h3> <p><strong>You can roll your own NUC—but should you?</strong></p> <p>To a DIYer, “building” a NUC is a bit of an insult. You basically buy a NUC or Brix, slot in two SO-DIMMs, a Wi-Fi card, an mSATA drive, and install the OS. If you posted such a “build” on YouTube, the hazelnut gallery would come out of the woodwork to rip you a new one in the comment section.</p> <p>All is not lost, however, for true wrenchers who want to actually build a UCFF PC from scratch, so-called kits be damned. We just wonder whether it makes much sense, because at this point there are a lot of barriers to entry to building your own.</p> <p>The first issue is getting a chassis. Intel has told us it really sees these devices as being purely custom computing options with the base NUC and NUC-style machines. While Mini-ITX and Thin ITX (more on that on page 56) feature standard I/O shields like their bigger siblings, ATX and microATX, NUC doesn’t have any standardized cutout for system I/O. That means any chassis would have to be built to take one of the multiple NUC motherboard port arrangements currently available. So don’t just buy a NUC motherboard and a NUC chassis without making sure they match. Most vendors will specify which NUC motherboard the chassis will fit.</p> <p>To experience what it would be like to build our own NUC, we ran with a Silverstone PT14 chassis. This aluminum chassis comes with an I/O shield for either the dual-HDMI-port Ivy Bridge boards or the Thunderbolt version. Our PT14 is the dual-HDMI version.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">DIY NUC-style</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Silverstone Petit PT14 chassis</td> <td class="item-dark">$40</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Intel D33217GKE mobo/CPU</td> <td>$310</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">19V power brick</td> <td class="item-dark">$16</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Wi-Fi antennas</td> <td>$10</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Windows 8 OEM OS</td> <td>$99</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Adata 8GB DDR3/1333 RAM</td> <td>$65</td> </tr> <tr> <td>120GB Crucial mSATA drive</td> <td>$108</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi card</td> <td>$34</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>$682</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>The next issue is securing the NUC motherboard. Intel isn’t fully committed to supporting a DIY ecosystem, so rather than selling individual boards, it’s selling 10-packs of motherboards intended for system builders or integrators. In a bit of a wink, wink, nod, nod, though, some of the bulk packs of motherboards are broken up and sold to end users. This, of course, raises questions about warranty support, but according to LogicSupply.com (a popular vendor of embedded systems that seems to stock most of the esoteric NUC parts), the warranty for the boards are covered directly by Intel even if purchased stand-alone, so it seems Intel will stand behind them.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">BARE-BONES INTEL NUC</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Intel DC3217IYE</td> <td class="item-dark">$255</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Windows 8 OEM OS</td> <td>$99</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Adata 8GB DDR3/1333 RAM</td> <td class="item-dark">$65</td> </tr> <tr> <td>120GB Crucial mSATA drive</td> <td>$108</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi card</td> <td>$34</td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>$561</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>The board we went with was an Intel DC33217GKE “Golden Lake” motherboard. It comes with an integrated heatsink and fan—which won’t work, as the PT14 chassis features an integrated heat pipe that connects directly to the chassis. Since the CPU is 17 watts, it’s possible to dissipate much of the heat through the chassis. Our Golden Lake motherboard came with a standard Intel cooler, which we unscrewed by first removing the two visible screws holding down the fan. We then removed the three fans holding down the heatsink and gently removed it from the board. The PT14 does have a single fan that’s set to exhaust air out the bottom of the chassis.</p> <p>From there it’s as simple as screwing the motherboard to the top of the chassis, populating the RAM, Wi-Fi card, and mSATA, installing the power button, and you’re done. All told, it took us about 15 minutes to roll our own NUC going at a leisurely pace so as not to forever lose the screws. We’ll note that the Wi-Fi antennas didn’t come with our 802.11ac card (they typically don’t) so you’ll have to secure a pair of rubber duckies with cables (just Bing “rubber wifi antenna and internal cable,” select Image, and search for the rubber duck antennas with internal cables. They’re typically under $10.)</p> <p>Before you’re done, though, you’ll also need to buy the 19-volt power brick. Intel actually sells them on its NUC parts page for $15, or they can be found at retailers for $16, typically.</p> <p>There, you’re done. You’ve just built your first Next Unit of Computing. It wasn’t difficult and it’s kind of fun. But does it make sense?</p> <p>No, not at all. Not once you run the numbers. The parts to build your own NUC from scratch cost about $682 (including $99 for the OS). If you had bought a NUC bare-bone system and added the same 802.11ac, mSATA, and RAM from the DIY package you would spend: $561. Ouch. And that’s without having to search through Uncle Jim’s used computer store for a pair of rubber duck Wi-Fi antennas and finding someone who actually sells NUC chassis. From a fiscal point of view, it makes no sense whatsoever. Even our standard edict that building your own box gives you control over the parts, fan placement, and appearance really doesn’t apply because, really, is there that much of a difference?</p> <p>Again, Intel says it’s not sure where it’s going with NUC as a DIY proposition and that’s apparent to us, because the real kick in the gut here is the motherboard. A NUC bare-bones kit with motherboard, power brick, chassis, and internal Wi-Fi antennas is $255 on the street. The best price we could find for the NUC motherboard alone was $310. Perhaps if Intel decides to make the price of the NUC boards more reasonable the DIY angle will make more sense, but today, it’s a waste of scratch no matter how you cut it.</p> <h3>Parts of a Whole</h3> <p><strong>The essential components of a DIY NUC</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u152332/part_shots-13234_small.jpg" alt="The Silverstone PT14 NUC chassis dissipates heat using a heat pipe with a fan blowing air out the bottom." width="620" height="413" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Silverstone PT14 NUC chassis dissipates heat using a heat pipe with a fan blowing air out the bottom.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/part_shots-13238_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/part_shots-13238_small.jpg" alt="This Intel D33217GKE NUC motherboard isn’t packaged for consumers, but you can still buy them with apparent warranty support from Intel." width="620" height="541" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This Intel D33217GKE NUC motherboard isn’t packaged for consumers, but you can still buy them with apparent warranty support from Intel.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/part_shots-13236_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/part_shots-13236_small.jpg" alt="With NUC, you’ll want higher-clocked modules and a dual-channel config if you care at all about 3D performance." width="620" height="510" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>With NUC, you’ll want higher-clocked modules and a dual-channel config if you care at all about 3D performance.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u152332/part_shots-13237_small.jpg" alt="Like most NUCs, our DIY takes an mSATA drive. Newer units, however, will take 2.5-inch drives at the cost of space." width="620" height="450" /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Like most NUCs, our DIY takes an mSATA drive. Newer units, however, will take 2.5-inch drives at the cost of space.</strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/part_shots-13232_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/part_shots-13232_small.jpg" alt="The NUC and Brix units all share the same basic 65-watt power supply." width="620" height="725" /></a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The NUC and Brix units all share the same basic 65-watt power supply.<br /></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> http://www.maximumpc.com/small_PCs_2014#comments feature Gigabyte Brix Pro Gigabyte Brix Projector GB-BXPi3-4010 Hardware intel March issues 2014 nuc pc small pc Features Mon, 28 Jul 2014 23:01:57 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28032 at http://www.maximumpc.com AVADirect Mini Cube Gaming PC Review http://www.maximumpc.com/avadirect_mini_cube_gaming_pc_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Just call it ‘The Fridge’</h3> <p>Naming a PC isn’t an easy task. It’s hard enough when you’re talking about your personal PC (Betsy, Svetlana, or Jabba work well), but when you’re a company selling a new model, Marketing 101 says the name should imbue magic and convince consumers to pony up.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ava_13708_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ava_13708_small.jpg" alt="Though capable and reasonably priced, this medium form factor is eclipsed by smaller, faster, and cheaper machines." title="AVADirect Mini Cube Gaming PC" width="620" height="582" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Though capable and reasonably priced, this medium form factor is eclipsed by smaller, faster, and cheaper machines.</strong></p> <p>We’re guessing AVADirect didn’t take that class, as its new custom mini-cube gaming PC is apparently named Mini Cube Gaming PC. The truth is, AVADirect probably doesn’t give a damn about the name because frankly, who cares? Maybe “5S” or “S IV” works on some people, but on a custom PC where you pick out the parts yourself, it’s probably far less pressing.</p> <p>Around the office, we’ve taken to calling this handsome SFF machine “The Fridge,” not necessarily because of its size, but because of its Frigidaire-like aesthetic. Sure, it would have been cool if the optical drive shared the same brushed-aluminum surface, but it still matches the black accents elsewhere on the case. While there’s no question that this is a small form factor rig, compared to the micro-towers we’ve seen lately, it’s pretty big. It’s more than double the width of the Falcon Northwest Tiki, and while slightly shorter than the CyberPower Hadron we reviewed in February, it’s about three inches wider than that machine.</p> <p>That size increase gives it more capability. While most micro-towers use SFX or 1U PSUs, The Fridge uses a standard 760W Seasonic ATX PSU. Inside, you’ll also find a liquid-cooled Core i7-4770K overclocked to 4.2GHz, 16GB of Kingston DDR3/1600, two Kingston 120GB HyperX SSDs in RAID 0, a 2TB WD HDD, an MSI Z87 Mini-ITX board, and an Asus GeForce GTX 780 card.</p> <p>Against our zero-point system, the AVADirect represents well in the non-heavily multithreaded tasks but, not surprisingly, it gets left behind in all other tests by the ZP’s six-core Core i7-3930K part clicking along at 3.8GHz. That includes gaming tests, but not by the margin you would expect from the zero-point’s GeForce GTX 690.</p> <p>The more important question is how The Fridge compares with the SFF/micro-tower crowd. Not too shabby. The bad mutha of the group continues to be Falcon Northwest’s Tiki, with its Haswell part overclocked to 4.7GHz and a GeForce Titan. Indeed, the Tiki still stands as the fastest micro-tower we’ve ever tested, and the fact that it’s held onto that title well into the new year demonstrates how aggressively Falcon went for broke with this model. Of course, that aggression comes at a price, with the Tiki hitting the $4,400 mark. At $2,583, AVADirect can pull the old, “You can buy our system, play all of your games, and still have enough money to buy two of the upcoming cheap 4K panels” routine.</p> <p>Normally, that routine would sway us, because like most folks, we can see sacrificing a little performance for a new monitor, keyboard, mouse, and new suit and shoes, too. But then there’s CyberPower PC’s Hadron Hydro 300, which costs $300 less than the AVADirect. It almost mirrors the parts in the AVADirect except for the HDD. The Hadron also packs custom liquid-cooling for its CPU and GPU, which, while the chassis gets a tad warm, helps the rig run extremely quietly and gives it a slight performance edge. The AVADirect box is louder and under heavy loads emits a low-frequency large-fan buzz.</p> <p>That leaves the AVADirect in a tough spot. It’s slower than the Tiki and more expensive than the Hadron. Yes, it’s got an off-the-shelf PSU, but we’re not sure that’s worth the sacrifice in size. Yes, it’s a striking-looking case with its brushed-steel/aluminum finish, but maybe the sun is just finally starting to set on the medium form factor.</p> <p><strong>$2,584,</strong> <a href="http://www.avadirect.com/">www.avadirect.com</a></p> <p><em>Note: This article was originally featured in our March issue of the magazine.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/avadirect_mini_cube_gaming_pc_review_2014#comments AVADirect Mini Cube Hardware March issues 2014 maximum pc Reviews Systems Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:11:59 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28059 at http://www.maximumpc.com Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X Review http://www.maximumpc.com/sapphire_tri-x_radeon_r9_290x_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A real gem of a GPU</h3> <p>For those who haven’t kept up with current events: Late last year AMD launched its all-new Hawaii GPUs, starting with its flagship Radeon R9 290X that featured a blower-type cooler designed by AMD. In testing, it ran hotter than any GPU we’ve ever tested, hitting 94 C at full load, which is about 20 C higher than normal. AMD assured everyone this was no problemo, and that the board was designed to run those temps until the meerkats came home. It was stable at 94 C, but the GPU throttled performance at those temps. The stock fan was also a bit loud at max revs, so though the card offered kick-ass performance, it was clearly being held back by the reference cooler.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/sapphire_13650_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/sapphire_13650_small.jpg" alt="The Tri-X throws off AMD’s meh cooler." title="Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Tri-X throws off AMD’s meh cooler.</strong></p> <p>Therefore, we all eagerly awaited the arrival of cards with aftermarket coolers, and this month we received the first aftermarket Radeon R9 290X—the massive triple-fan Tri-X model from Sapphire; and we must say, all of our Radeon prayers have been answered by this card.</p> <p>Not only does it run totally cool and quiet at all times, but because it runs so chilly it has plenty of room to overclock, making it a card that addresses every single one of our complaints about the reference design from AMD. There is one caveat: price. The Sapphire card is $50 more expensive than the reference card at $600, but you are obviously getting quite a bit of additional horsepower for your ducats.</p> <p>When we first fired it up, we were amazed to see it hit 1,040MHz under load, and stay there throughout testing. Even more surprising were the temps we were seeing. Since the reference card hits 94 C all day long, this is obviously a really hot GPU, but the Sapphire Tri-X cooler was holding it down at a chilly 75 C. The card was whisper-quiet too, which was also a pleasant surprise given the noise level of the reference cooler. We were also able to overclock it to 1,113MHz, which is a turnaround in that we could not overclock the reference board at all since it throttles at stock settings.</p> <p><strong>$600,</strong> <a href="http://www.sapphiretech.com/landing.aspx?lid=1">www.sapphiretech.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the March 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/sapphire_tri-x_radeon_r9_290x_review#comments Air Cooling amd gpu graphics card Hardware March issues 2014 maximun pc Review Sapphire Tri-X Radeon R9 290X Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:09:13 +0000 Josh Norem 28024 at http://www.maximumpc.com Toshiba Qosmio X75 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/toshiba_qosmio_x75_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Lots of graphical horsepower at a reasonable price</h3> <p>It’s been a while since we reviewed a Toshiba gaming notebook, so we couldn’t wait to get our hands on the company’s new Qosmio X75. Unlike iBuypower’s super-slim and portable 17-inch Battalion M1771 gaming notebook we reviewed last issue, the Qosmio X75 puts power ahead of portability.</p> <p>With a body measuring 16.5x10.7x1.7 inches and weighing more than seven pounds, the X75 is definitely in desktop-replacement territory. The chassis is clad in black textured aluminum, with lots of red accenting, such as the shiny red trim around the body and the trackpad, the red LED keyboard backlighting, and the glowing red Qosmio logo on the lid. It all serves to add a bit of flash to an otherwise subtle aesthetic.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u152332/toshiba_laptop13691_small.jpg" alt="Go with 8GB of RAM and forego the Blu-ray drive to save $300." title="Toshiba Qosmio X75" width="620" height="413" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Go with 8GB of RAM and forego the Blu-ray drive to save $300.</strong></p> <p>A couple aspects we don’t like are the 4-pin power connector, which necessitates precise orientation of the plug. We’re also not crazy about the exhaust fan’s location on the right edge, which could mean warm wrists for right-handers during heavy play sessions. While it never got uncomfortably hot, we would have preferred a rear exhaust.</p> <p>On the bright side, the Qosmio’s display is one of the best TN panels we’ve seen, with fantastic viewing angles and a vibrant 1080p glossy display, which didn’t suffer from the usual glare problem. We also had no qualms with the laptop’s quad Harman/Kardon speakers, which sounded clear and powerful. As a matter of fact, we can confidently say that these are some of the best laptop speakers we’ve heard.</p> <p>The trackpad is similarly praise-worthy. While we normally harp on trackpads that don’t feature two dedicated buttons, the Qosmio’s uniform expanse is easy to use, with horizontal grooves above the left and right mouse clickers providing a suitable substitute for separate buttons. In addition, the trackpad is ample at 4.5x3.2 inches, highly responsive, and supports multitouch gestures. The keyboard is also equally competent, although we do wish the arrow keys were full-size as opposed to half-size.</p> <p>Inside the chassis, the Qosmio sports a quad-core 2.4GHz 4700MQ CPU, a GeForce GTX 770M, and 16GB of memory. For storage, it has a 256GB mSATA SSD coupled with a 1TB hard drive. The laptop has a 47Wh 8-cell battery.</p> <p>When it was time to perform, Toshiba’s laptop killed it in the gaming department, but was average everywhere else. We had never reviewed a gaming laptop with a 770M before, and found that it had no issues kicking the crap out of the more mobile-oriented 765M GPU in our Alienware 14 zero-point rig, thanks in no small part to its 3GB of GDDR5 memory. We’re talking performance advantages of 17–66 percent in the gaming tests. The Qosmio couldn’t quite keep up with our zero-point in our CPU-intensive benchmarks, however, losing by roughly 3–8 percent. While those aren’t huge losses, it’s still a little disappointing given that both laptops use the same Intel processor. We suspect that Toshiba is throttling the CPU to avoid thermal issues. Thankfully, the laptop never got hot, so we didn’t hear much fan noise.</p> <p>The laptop’s biggest failing actually came by way of battery life, which isn’t a big surprise from a machine of this size. In our video rundown test, the Qosmio lasted two hours and 20 minutes. If you’re interested in getting a laptop this large, you’re most likely going to use it as a desktop replacement, thus battery life isn’t really an issue. And while its CPU performance is a little disappointing, the Qosmio X75 offers a lot of performance as a gaming laptop for a very fair price. While our build cost $1,800, foregoing a Blu-ray drive and reducing the memory to 8GB of RAM (which is more than enough for gaming) could save $275, bringing the total to a little over $1,500. When you also consider the fact that you can easily pop open the bottom of the laptop for swapping out RAM and storage (without voiding the warranty), the Qosmio X75 turns out to be a great deal for enthusiasts, particularly gamers.</p> <p><strong>$1,800,</strong> <a href="http://www.toshiba.com/tai/">www.toshiba.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the March 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/toshiba_qosmio_x75_review_2014#comments Business Notebooks Hardware March issues 2014 maximum pc Review Toshiba Qosmio X75 Reviews Notebooks Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:04:19 +0000 Jimmy Thang 28010 at http://www.maximumpc.com Dream Machine Case Redux http://www.maximumpc.com/dream_machine_redux_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Spin-offs of old case favorites square off</h3> <p>Ah, Cooler Master and Corsair. We know you well, especially since the cases we’re checking out here are derivatives of cases that have previously been featured in Maximum PC’s annual opus, the fabled Dream Machine.</p> <p>Here’s a spoiler, though: We’re not likely to pick either one for next year’s big build. We’re pretty impressed with Corsair’s offering, but a few quirks in design keep this strong case from achieving a better score. As for Cooler Master, it’s time to take the Cosmos SE back to the drawing board, unless you fancy a game of “Honey, I Shrunk My Components.”</p> <h4>Cooler Master Cosmos SE</h4> <p>Maybe we’re spoiled, but the phrase “full-tower chassis” tends to evoke a certain image in our minds—a sense of space, in particular. We hear “full-tower” and we think beaucoup room: tons of empty mounts for hard drives and 5.25-inch devices, lots of room in which to work and move around (and string cables throughout), as well as a super-easy installation for parts and pieces—one that doesn’t feel like you’re trying to wedge a very expensive square into a round hole.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/cosmos_se_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/cosmos_se_small.jpg" alt="Get out the grease; you might have a bit of work ahead of you if you're trying to stuff big parts inside Cooler Master's cramped chassis." title="Cooler Master Cosmos SE" width="620" height="858" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Get out the grease; you might have a bit of work ahead of you if you're trying to stuff big parts inside Cooler Master's cramped chassis.</strong></p> <p>Perhaps Cooler Master should have reconsidered calling its Cosmos SE chassis a full-tower, because to us, the description seems a bit stretched. Sure, there’s plenty of room for storage. The case supports no fewer than eight 3.5-inch hard drives or a whopping 18 2.5-inch drives (assuming you’re slapping two SSDs into each of the case’s eight total drive bays). Six of these drive bays can be removed en masse if you want to stash a radiator in place or, annoyingly, if you need a bit more room for your graphics card.</p> <p>That allows us to segue into our primary criticism of the chassis: It’s cramped. To the company’s credit, Cooler Master does specifically call out the exact measurement of graphics cards that the case supports on its website. However, it does so using the measurement taken if the aforementioned drive bays are removed (15.5 inches in length, if you’re curious). When the bays aren’t removed—and frankly, we wish we didn’t have to remove them, as they’re both more useful and aesthetically pleasing than a large, gaping hole—you only get 10.9 inches of clearance for GPUs.</p> <p>To put that in real-world terms, it felt as if we were on the verge of damaging our 10.5-inch Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 video card when wedging it—literally—into the case. We eventually got it in, but it left absolutely no room between the edge of the card and the hard drive bays. You’re then totally reliant on the cable-routing holes cut into the tray itself to power up your card, which isn’t saying much.</p> <p>Adding to the space concerns of this already-tight chassis is the fact that installing a common ATX motherboard (using provided standoffs; they aren’t preinstalled) blocks a portion of two of the case’s primary, rubberized cable-routing holes—and, of course, they’re the ones closest to the video card you’ve just hammered into the case. The case’s top-mounted 14cm fan covers half of a routing hole on the top of the motherboard tray, as well.</p> <p>If you have anything beyond a standard PC setup, you’re going to have quite a bit of hassle getting your cable management to work correctly in this case; we sure did. The case does come with two large holes near the power supply, but you sacrifice case aesthetics when you have to route cables right overtop your parts—at least, we didn’t like the picture we were seeing through the case’s large side-panel window when doing this workaround.</p> <p>Cooler Master packs plenty of preinstalled cooling into the Cosmos SE. We wish we had a built-in fan controller to reduce the din (and keep us from having to string a ton of Molex connectors together). It doesn’t, however, pack in locking mechanisms for your 5.25-inch devices; you have to screw those in manually (hello, five years ago). Two USB 3.0 connections join two USB 2.0 connections on the front, in addition to a button that manually controls the case’s blue LED lighting (from the fans).</p> <p>But really, that’s just dressing up a pig at this point. We’d recommend the Cosmos SE only to those who like meticulously measuring out all their parts and pieces before doing a build. The other 99 percent of you would do well with a chassis that works for you, not against you.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Cooler Master Cosmos SE<br /></strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_5.jpg" alt="score:5" title="score:5" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$170 (street), <a href="http://www.coolermaster-usa.com/" target="_blank">www.coolermaster-usa.com</a></strong></p> <h4>Corsair 750D</h4> <p>Militaristic in its precision, Corsair’s 750D chassis is all about business, not adornments. You won’t find any fancy lighting on this case, nor an inordinate array of preinstalled, pretty cooling for a case of this size. What you do get is a ton of space to work with: plenty of room for cable management, video cards of all sizes, liquid-cooling support for a triple-fan radiator (3x 12cm), and then some. While the case offers plenty to begin with, you could theoretically add even three more drive bays to the interior without it feeling cramped in the slightest.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/750d_hero_up300_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/750d_hero_up300_small.jpg" alt="We almost wish Corsair's case came with an additional drive bay for SSDs; the trays on the case's rear don't quite fit." title="Corsair 750D" width="620" height="928" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We almost wish Corsair's case came with an additional drive bay for SSDs; the trays on the case's rear don't quite fit.</strong></p> <p>As you might expect, the 750D fits just about any motherboard you throw its way. The simple ATX mobo we use for our testing felt a bit like Jack in the land of the giants; screwing it into the preinstalled standoffs was easy, and we loved that it was surrounded by a total of eight holes for cable routing (five rubberized, three cut into the top-side of the elevated motherboard tray). While you might lose one or two of these holes if your power supply is larger than five inches long, that still leaves a considerable amount of room to play with.</p> <p>If you’re rocking an extended power supply, Corsair makes it fairly easy to remove the three-bay drive cage that stands in your path and relocate it above the similarly sized drive cage on the case’s bottom-right. We were a little surprised that this wasn’t the 750D’s default configuration, as it feels like one has an unnecessary surfeit of room around the graphics card area on the motherboard when both drive cages adorn the case’s bottom.</p> <p>That said, the default arrangement does allow for a good amount of uninhibited cooling to churn from the case’s two front 14cm fans. A single 14cm fan gives a bit of exhaust on the case’s rear; given the 750D’s size, however, we’d prefer a larger 20cm variant on the case’s top, which could help boost cooling while simultaneously cutting out a bit of noise in the process.</p> <p>While it might sound like we’re gushing over the 750D’s design, there are still a few quirks that keep this case from “killer” status. For starters, Corsair slaps four drive trays for SSDs on the right side of the chassis, directly blocking the rear of the 3.5-inch drive cage (or cages, depending on your configuration). It’s a pain in the butt to route cables and manage storage on the drive cages if you have all four 2.5-inch trays filled with SSDs.</p> <p>While installing an optical drive into one of the three free 5.25-inch bays isn’t that bad (you have to pop off a front panel from behind and slide the drive in) the optical drive doesn’t actually sit flush against the covers. It ends up being recessed just a bit, which makes for a not-so-impressive aesthetic on the case’s front.</p> <p>These misgivings are still minor detractions from an otherwise excellent chassis. The 750D is big, fairly easy to work with, and offers a great arrangement for all but the most tricked-out systems, storage-wise.</p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Corsair 750D<br /></strong></p> <p><strong><br /></strong></p> <div class="module-content" style="margin-top: -20px;"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="verdict"><img src="/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_8.jpg" alt="score:8" title="score:8" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$160 (street), <a href="http://www.corsair.com/" target="_blank">www.corsair.com</a></strong></p> <p><strong><span style="font-style: italic; font-weight: normal;">Note: This article was taken from the March 2014 issue of the magazine.</span></strong></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/dream_machine_redux_2014#comments chassis Cooler Master Cosmos SE Corsair 750D Hardware March issues 2014 maximum pc Review Cases Features Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:59:32 +0000 The Maximum PC Staff 27982 at http://www.maximumpc.com WD Black2 SSD+HDD Review http://www.maximumpc.com/wd_black2_ssdhdd_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>One drive to rule them all</h3> <p>The WD Black2 is an answer to the prayers of mobile users who have just one drive bay but want the speed of an SSD with the capacity of a hard drive. Unlike a hybrid drive, which stores all data on a hard drive but uses a limited amount of flash storage for caching, the WD Black2 features an all-new design whereby a single 2.5-inch enclosure houses both a hard drive and an SSD—two distinct drives that appear to the OS as such, so you can put your OS on the SSD and your data on the hard drive. It’s a brilliant solution that unfortunately gives up a bit of performance in order to conform to the small form factor, but if we had just one storage bay in our notebooks, we’d upgrade to this bad mutha immediately.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/wdfmobile_black2_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/wdfmobile_black2_small.jpg" alt="The Black2 delivers a 120GB SSD and a 1TB HDD in a slim 2.5-inch package." title="WD Black2 SSD+HDD" width="620" height="481" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Black2 delivers a 120GB SSD and a 1TB HDD in a slim 2.5-inch package.</strong></p> <p>The drive is a 9.5mm unit, so it won’t be sliding into any ultraportables—those require a 7mm drive—but it will fit just fine in a larger notebook. The SSD portion of the drive is a 120GB unit that uses 20nm MLC NAND flash, though the NAND manufacturer is unknown. It utilizes a JMicron controller as well as DRAM onboard cache. There is also a Marvell SATA bridge chip that allows both drives to share the lone SATA 6Gb/s interface. The hard drive portion is a two-platter, 5,400rpm model with 1TB of capacity, and its “Black” designation indicates that it’s one of Seagate’s “high-performance” drives, but with hard drives we don’t expect blistering performance anymore. We’d just like them to not suck too hard, and for mobile duties they need to conserve power, so they don’t have very big shoes to fill. The drive includes an outstanding five-year warranty, and is Windows-only at this time, as it requires software to “unlock” the 1TB partition. Once unlocked though, the partition is visible on any system, or at least it appeared on all the Windows machines we connected it to; we did not verify this with a Mac or Linux machine. You can’t use two of these drives in RAID, nor can you span data across both partitions.</p> <p>WD lists the drive’s performance specs for the SSD as offering 350MB/s read speeds and 140MB/s write speeds, but it doesn’t list any numbers for the hard drive. In our testing we found the SSD to offer slightly faster read speeds, hitting 429MB/s in ATTO, and its write speed of 129MB was very close to spec. That’s not as fast as even a midrange SSD, however, so we would not enlist it for heavy usage or any video work. The hard drive portion averaged 114MB/s read and write speeds in testing, which is good enough for data storage but not super impressive. Also, since both drives share a SATA interface, transferring data to both drives simultaneously can cause a traffic jam—we saw read speeds on the SSD drop about 100MB/s when copying data to the hard drive at the same time.</p> <p>All in all, this drive is clearly a compromise, but one we’d be willing to live with if we were constrained by a single storage bay. The SSD is fast enough, and 1TB of storage is bodacious, as well. If it were faster it would earn a Kick Ass award, but for now we’ll probably have to wait until Gen 2 to satisfy all of our desires.</p> <p><strong>$300,</strong> <a href="http://www.wdc.com/en/">www.wd.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in our March 2014 issue of&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="http://shop.futureus.com/tech/maximum-pc.html?sourcekey=WSMAXFTB" target="_blank">the magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/wd_black2_ssdhdd_review_2014#comments Hardware HDD March issues 2014 Review ssd WD Black2 Reviews SSD Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:56:43 +0000 Josh Norem 27973 at http://www.maximumpc.com Antec Kuhler H20 950 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/antec_kuhler_h20_950_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A sizeable quandary</h3> <p>Re-engineering computer hardware is an expensive and time-consuming process. That’s why the technology usually evolves gradually, rather than in fits and starts; great leaps are risky. When you do something novel, it needs to be for a good reason. When Antec recently introduced two new types of coolers, the Kuhler 1250 and the 950, it did something pretty different. In a closed-loop liquid-cooling (CLC) system, the pump is customarily integrated into the heatsink that sits on top of the CPU. But with this new series of Kuhler units, Antec has moved the pump on top of the fan, which it uses to power the pump. The 950 ups the ante even further by putting a fan on each side of the radiator, making it a truly bulky piece of equipment. Always happy to see an innovative design, we hoped that perhaps the 950 would excel where the 1250 (reviewed last issue) was just OK for the price.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/kuhler_950_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/kuhler_950_small.jpg" alt="Despite its mass, this cooler fit in our test bed, as long we installed it in the rear and not the top." title="Antec Kuhler H20 950" width="620" height="411" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Despite its mass, this cooler fit in our test bed, as long we installed it in the rear and not the top.</strong></p> <p>Looking through the documentation and the marketing materials, one does not find bold claims of breakthrough performance or whisper-quiet operation. Antec does not appear to assert any advantage over other CLCs. But one look at the pictures, and it’s pretty clear that this guy wants a bold amount of real estate inside your PC. Ironically, though, despite having one fan on either side of the rad (which itself is 50mm thick, twice the usual), we found the 950 was actually easier to install than its big brother. The whole assembly cleared the large heatsinks on our Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard, which is not known for modesty. Our tall and fancy-looking sticks of RAM also had plenty of room. The 950’s immobile pipes that go from the pump to the rad partially obstructed one of the screw holes on the CPU tray bracket, but we were able to angle it in after some fiddling. (Pro tip: Don’t fully insert your screws until all four corners of the bracket are attached.)</p> <p>So far, so good. Next is the cabling. Like the 1250, it’s all integrated into the heatsink—if you don’t mind using only the bundled “Grid” fan control software to report your temps and speeds. We needed our usual testing tools, so we had to grab a Y-splitter to connect the unit’s two fans to one motherboard fan header, in addition to testing with the official installation method. When we linked the fans to the motherboard, though, Grid could no longer “see” the fans. This either-or scenario is a bit vexing, but not a deal-breaker. Most people should be fine with Grid. You can install it from the CD in the retail box, or download it from the product page on Antec’s website.</p> <p>In terms of raw performance, the 950 did not fare as well as we hoped. It regularly outpaced the best air coolers, but it also ran consistently behind top-shelf CLCs (both the 120mm and 240mm variety). Since the design of the cooler is so unconventional, it’s difficult to define the source of these underwhelming results. On the plus side, the fans had pretty good noise levels; once the side panel was on, we could barely hear the 950’s fans, as long as we weren’t running them full-tilt. We don’t measure noise scientifically, though, so your mileage may vary.</p> <p>The difference between this and, say, an NZXT X60 is only a few degrees Celsius. In the real world, you may never take advantage of that additional edge. Every buyer, however, will need to deal with the 950’s somewhat-awkward installation and nonremovable fan. In the end, the 950 does some interesting things, but it doesn’t quite have the performance to make up for its quirks.</p> <p><strong>$100,</strong> <a href="http://store.antec.com/">www.antec.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the March 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/antec_kuhler_h20_950_review#comments All in one Antec Kuhler H20 950 clc closed loop Hardware Review water coolers Reviews Water Cooling Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:50:31 +0000 Tom McNamara 27954 at http://www.maximumpc.com Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition Review http://www.maximumpc.com/gigabyte_geforce_gtx_780_ghz_edition_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Ready to put the Hert(z) on AMD</h3> <p>It can get a bit confusing in the video card world, what with the similar names for all the cards and the subtle differences among models. Things just got more confusing this month with the release of the Gigabyte GTX 780 GHz Edition, which was a special designation previously used for AMD cards. Since AMD has abandoned the GHz tag, however, Gigabyte figured it would adopt it and attach it to a superclocked version of the venerable GTX 780. Whereas the standard GTX 780 comes with a base clock of just 863MHz and a boost clock of 900MHz, the GHz edition comes with a base clock of—can you guess?—1,019MHz and a boost clock of 1,071MHz. That’s quite an overclock right out of the box, and to achieve it Gigabyte has deployed its highly effective WindForce triple-fan cooling solution. We’ve seen this cooler before on the company’s higher-spec’d GTX 780 Ti, so we know it allows for silent operation and impressive overclocking. The GTX 780 is in the middle of a price war with AMD’s new R9 GPUs, so it has to keep costs down in order to remain competitive. The R9 290 is generally faster than the GTX 780 in stock trim, so the GHz edition is a response to that card, but since it’s priced at $540 it’s primed to take on the R9 290X, as well.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gigabyte-gtx-780-ghz-edition-windforce-3x-2_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gigabyte-gtx-780-ghz-edition-windforce-3x-2_small.jpg" alt="This bad boy boosted to almost 1,200MHz right out of the box. " title="Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Edition" width="620" height="363" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This bad boy boosted to almost 1,200MHz right out of the box. </strong></p> <p>Compared to the stock GTX 780, the GHz edition has the aforementioned higher clocks as well as a fully custom PCB that includes an eight-phase power design for more stable overclocking. It also features two 8-pin power connectors instead of a 6-pin and an 8-pin, which helps it achieve those higher clocks and remain stable at higher frequencies. Finally, it features a metal back-and-side plate that wraps around the card on all sides, which isn’t something we’ve seen before on an aftermarket card. The GHz edition card is one-half inch longer than the stock card at 11 inches, and costs about $40 more than the reference design.</p> <p>For our testing, we compared the card to a stock GTX 780 as well as the king of GTX 780s—the EVGA GTX 780 ACX, which received a perfect 10/Kick Ass verdict in our October issue. We also tossed it in the ring with a stock AMD Radeon R9 290 and an R9 290X, since they are all in the same GPU ballpark. When compared to the Radeon cards, the GHz edition board ate their lunch, which is a turnaround from what we’ve seen before, where the cards were neck-and-neck in testing. The GTX 780 GHz even beat the more expensive Radeon R9 290X in seven out of 11 of our tests, and simply crushed the Radeon R9 290 in all but two tests. Since the Radeon cards are hard to find and priced accordingly, the regular 290 is now more than $500, so choosing between it and the 780 GHz edition is a no-brainer, as the 780 wins every time. Choosing between the Gigabyte card and the EVGA card is more difficult though, as the EVGA card is about $10 less expensive, so flip a coin because they are both superb.</p> <p><strong>$540 (street),</strong> <a href="http://www.gigabyte.us/">www.gigabyte.us</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the March 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/gigabyte_geforce_gtx_780_ghz_edition_review#comments Gigabyte GeForce GTX 780 GHz Hardware March issues 2014 maximum pc Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:49:06 +0000 Josh Norem 27944 at http://www.maximumpc.com Neat Company NeatConnect Review http://www.maximumpc.com/neat_company_neatconnect_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Eliminating paper clutter, one scan at a time</h3> <p>Consider the growing pile of paper on your desk. Yes, most of it will be tossed in the trash or end up lost behind your file cabinet along with coffee coasters and PCIe brackets. The Neat Company aims to tidy your work surface with its NeatConnect, a wireless scanner that digitalizes your documents and organizes them into its cloud filing system.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/neatconnect_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/neatconnect_small.jpg" alt="Eliminating paper clutter, one scan at a time" title="Neat Company NeatConnect " width="620" height="600" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>NeatConnect allows up to 50 documents in the loading tray at once.</strong></p> <p>This isn’t the first scanner we’ve tested from the Neat Company, but it’s the first scanner we’ve tested that uploads files directly to the cloud without the use of any software on your PC. NeatConnect even allows you to directly upload to your favorite cloud-storage services, such as Dropbox, SkyDrive, Evernote, Box, and Google Drive. But even given the option to upload files to other cloud storage sites, the NeatCloud is the best way to maximize value from NeatConnect.</p> <p>NeatConnect features a sleek white cover; slot sizes for business cards, receipts, and documents; and a small touchscreen interface in the center. The device measures 11x8.7x7.5-inches and weighs just 5.3 pounds. NeatConnect supports SD cards and features one USB port on the back, for the direct transfer of PDF files onto your PC, albeit only in black-and-white when using this method. While color and various file formats are an option for cloud storage, NeatConnect is designed for document scanning, not photo scanning. In fact, the Neat Company does not recommend using the device to scan photos because it may damage them; if you’re looking to digitalize your photo albums, look elsewhere.</p> <p>Installation is a no-brainer. Upon boot, the scanner requires an 802.11 b/g/n connection and a NeatCloud account, which can be created on the spot. Like today’s smartphones, NeatConnect guides you through short tutorials and then lets you begin scanning. The touchscreen interface enables you to save scans onto the device itself, your PC, NeatCloud, or other cloud storage services. NeatConnect also enables files to be sent via email directly. The touchscreen interface enables a variety of scanning options including color, grayscale, or black-and-white scans. You can also enable single-sided or double-sided scanning, separate or bundled files, DPI resolutions of 150, 200, 300, or 600, and popular file extensions such as PDF, TIFF, and JPG. The Neat Company sports iOS and Android apps, allowing you to upload a photo on the go or to view files in the NeatCloud.</p> <p>We like the NeatConnect’s intuitive interface, mobile app, and great cloud service, but picking one up will set you back a cool $500. After three months, NeatCloud charges users $6 per month for the baseline service. If you find that you’re managing home- or small-business expenses and are looking for a great way to quickly organize and retrieve information, the NeatConnect is a worthy investment.</p> <p><strong>$500,</strong> <a href="http://www.neat.com/">www.neat.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the March 2014 issue of the&nbsp;</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/neat_company_neatconnect_review_2014#comments Hardware March issues 2014 Neat Connect Review scanners Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:48:03 +0000 Clark Crisp 27943 at http://www.maximumpc.com NZXT Source 530 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/nzxt_source_530_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Simple, easy, spacious, and warm</h3> <p>It’s understandable that NZXT left a few bucks off the price of its Source 530 case, as this full-tower chassis is really more a midrange offering than something you’ll be taking out a second mortgage for. We’re big fans of that, especially since the case’s interior contains all of the usual NXZT-esque features that have graced many of company’s previous cases we’ve reviewed.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/img_0008_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/img_0008_small.jpg" alt="Think of the Source 530 as a more sedate Phantom 530." title="NZXT Source 530" width="620" height="668" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Think of the Source 530 as a more sedate Phantom 530.</strong></p> <p>Beyond the side-panel screws, which were a real beast to remove, installing a system inside of this decently roomy chassis couldn’t be much easier. Motherboard standoffs on the Source 530 come pre-installed on the tray (yes!), an ample cutout exists behind the CPU cooler for any aftermarket fiddling you might want to do, and there’s just about an inch of space between the tray’s rear and the (other) side of the case for cable management.</p> <p>Storage-wise, the Source 530 uses drive trays to give you a speedy installation path for up to six 3.5-inch drives at once. They’re split into three separate cages that fit one, two, and three drives each, which you can remove from the case in an effort to “improve” airflow within your chassis. Why quotes? We’ll get to that in a moment.</p> <p>The three bays for optical drives (or fancier fun, like all the ample water-cooling this case can support) use built-in locking mechanisms to hold your components in place; the more timid among you can also use two screws to secure each device from the other side. A single 2.5-inch drive mount sits behind the motherboard tray for any SSDs you want to stuff vertically. Additional 2.5-inch drives can be mounted into the 3.5 trays, too.</p> <p>Installing add-in cards in the case is your typical, mildly annoying affair—thumbscrews hold the covers in place and you’ll likely need (or want) a screwdriver to take them off. The motherboard tray itself has six major cable-routing holes drilled into it, which do a great job of assisting you when you go to string wires every which way. Our standard test build for cases—which includes the use of an Nvidia GTX 480 video card—left us with plenty of room to maneuver and hide our cables around the chassis (thanks to said holes).</p> <p>Here’s where it gets troublesome, however. The case comes with two fans pre-installed. However, NZXT slaps a 12cm fan at the rear of the case’s inside, and a 12cm fan on the rear-top—both exhaust. We’d prefer to have a dedicated intake fan for stronger cooling, and we’re slightly worried that the HDDs won’t get adequate cooling (though NZXT does give you the option to use your own 12-, 14-, or 20cm fan). Yes, we know there’s research to indicate that, despite popular belief, drive temps don’t really impact life span, but we get uncomfortable without some air moving over our HDDs, especially in the stifling-hot summers.</p> <p>Rounding out this chassis are two USB 3.0 ports on its front, and a button that controls a lovely, SATA-powered LED light on its rear. Quaint touches for an otherwise roomy, easy-to-use, sub-$100 full-tower chassis. Still, you can pack quite a party in NZXT’s chassis; what it lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up for in raw simplicity.</p> <p><strong>$90,</strong> <a href="http://www.nzxt.com/">www.nzxt.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/nzxt_source_530_review#comments Hardware maximum pc NZXT Source 530 Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:50:30 +0000 David Murphy 27879 at http://www.maximumpc.com iBuypower Battalion M1771-2 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/ibuypower_battalion_m1771-2_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>When form trumps function</h3> <p>It’s really no surprise that most 17-inch gaming laptops are back-breakers. Large screens generally equate to large chassis, and beefy, enthusiast components just add to the bulk. But iBuypower obliterates that trend with the Battalion M1771-2—but not without a few trade-offs.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ibuypower_13031_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ibuypower_13031_small.jpg" alt="You can change the color of the LED backlight beneath the keyboard, but the letters don’t glow." title="iBuypower Battalion M1771-2" width="620" height="568" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;">You can change the color of the LED backlight beneath the keyboard, but the letters don’t glow.</p> <p>The relatively portable form factor really is the star of the show here. While the 16.4x11.2-inch laptop can consume a lot of desk space, the M1771-2 is mind-bogglingly thin at .85 inches, which makes it .3 inches thinner than the already-amazingly slim 14-inch Razer Blade that we reviewed in July. The M1771-2 is also impressively light for its class, weighing five pounds, 15.4 ounces, which is nearly half a pound lighter than even our “smaller” 14-inch Alienware 14 zero-point. Sexier still is the fact that the power brick is relatively compact, weighing less than 1.5 pounds (most gaming notebook chargers easily weigh more than two pounds).</p> <p>Truth be told, the M1771-2 is actually eerily similar to Razer’s sexy 17-inch laptop that we reviewed in our Holiday 2012 issue. Although it’s not quite as eye-catching as Razer’s offering, the M1771-2 is made of the same sleek black metal, but features a full-size keyboard with number pad in lieu of Razer’s Switchblade UI. While you can change the color of the keyboard’s LED backlighting, the lighting itself is rather dim. Also, the logo on the back of the M1771-2’s display gets the sticker treatment, unlike the sweet-looking LED logo on the 17-inch Razer Blade.</p> <p>Like the Razer, the M1771-2 lacks an optical drive, but it outdoes the Razer by offering a fourth USB 3.0 port, an SD card reader, and two Mini DisplayPorts. We didn’t think it was possible to cram so many features into such a slim laptop. Color us impressed.</p> <p>All in all, however, the notebook is quite average. The M1771-2 uses a 17.3-inch 1920x1080-resolution TN display, and though the viewing angles aren’t bad for a TN panel, we’ve seen much better from the likes of Maingear’s Nomad 15 (reviewed February 2013). And, of course, it can’t compare to the viewing angles and color accuracy offered by an IPS panel.</p> <p>We also weren’t blown away by the laptop’s speakers, as we thought they could use a bit more volume for noisy environments. The M1771-2’s Elan touchpad is serviceable and we like that it features multitouch gestures for two-finger scrolling, but you’ll definitely want to tweak the sensitivity settings. Furthermore, we would have preferred two separate physical buttons as opposed to having both integrated beneath the trackpad, so as to avoid any swiping and clicking confusion. The keyboard features chiclet keys that feel sturdy enough, but we do wish the buttons were a smidgen bigger given the large surface area that’s available.</p> <p>Tucked compactly within the chassis is a quad-core 2.4GHz Core i7-4700HQ, 16GB of DDR3/1600, and a GeForce GTX 765M with 2GB of GDDR5. Aside from the Alienware 14’s Core i7-4700MQ processor, which falters ever so slightly in the integrated-graphics department, both the M1771-2 and our zero-point carry the same core components.</p> <p>Despite being equipped with very similar CPUs on paper, however, the M1771-2 lagged behind in our ProShow Producer and Stitch processor tests by roughly 5–8 percent. iBuypower’s notebook was even slower in the multithread-heavy x264 HD 5.0 benchmark, falling behind by 10 percent. We suspect the thinner chassis can’t dissipate the heat as well as the Alienware, so the processor runs on Turbo Boost just a bit less. However, the iBuypower did fare better in our graphics tests. It was a wash in BioShock Infinite and 3DMark 11, but the M1771-2 was able to best our ZP laptop by 4 percent in Metro: Last Light. In our experiential gameplay tests of Battlefield 4 at its high preset settings and Call of Duty: Ghosts on its highest “extra” settings, both games garnered average frame rates in the high 30s at 1920x1080 resolution. While the games are playable, we recommend tweaking the settings a bit for a smoother experience.</p> <p>We don’t have any kind words to say about the laptop’s battery life, unfortunately. iBuypower says that you should be able to squeeze three to six hours of juice out of the 6-cell 5400mAh battery, but we achieved a meager two and a half hours in our video-rundown test. We don’t normally harp on battery life too much for gaming laptops because they’re often desktop replacements, but considering how relatively portable the M1771-2 actually is, its small battery is an unfortunate quality. In this case, we wouldn’t mind a few additional ounces in exchange for a beefier battery that’s guaranteed for at least three hours.</p> <p>Although the M1771-2 cuts some corners with its parts and peripherals, its large screen and super-svelte form factor make it fairly priced at $1,860. It’s not a perfect laptop by any means, but if you want a portable gaming laptop with a large screen that doesn’t break the bank, you won’t find a better option at the moment.</p> <p><strong>$1,860,</strong> <a href="http://www.ibuypower.com/">www.ibuypower.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/ibuypower_battalion_m1771-2_review#comments Business Notebooks Hardware iBuypower Battalion M1771-2 laptops maximum pc Review Reviews Notebooks Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:49:33 +0000 Jimmy Thang 27858 at http://www.maximumpc.com Asus Mars 760 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_mars_760_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A superb GPU, but there’s little reason to buy it</h3> <p>We’ve often wondered why dual-GPU video cards always use two flagship GPUs instead of something a bit more midrange. Sure, we get the whole “most powerful card in the world” marketing tagline that inevitably follows the creation of cards with two high-end GPUs, but those suckers are expensive, run really hot, and oftentimes require exotic cooling. Well, this month Asus has answered our question by packing two midrange GeForce GTX 760 GPUs into one PCB, creating a $650 dual-GPU card designed to take on the $1,000 GTX Titan and the $700 GTX 780 Ti. We figured it would be potent before we even put it on a test bench, since in our “Tested!” feature back in October 2013 we found dual GTX 660 Ti cards to be faster than a GTX 780. Therefore, it’s not a stretch to imagine that two GTX 760s could be faster than a Titan, but since people aren’t that into the dual-GPU thing these days, this will have to be one stupid-fast card to make us believers.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dual_geforce_13007_small_2_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dual_geforce_13007_small_2.jpg" alt="There is a Mars logo on the side that lights up and “breathes” during operation. " title="Asus Mars 760" width="620" height="717" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>There is a Mars logo on the side that lights up and “breathes” during operation. </strong></p> <p>To recap, the GTX 760 uses a GPU named GK104 that is considered midrange nowadays, but in 2012 was found in the flagship GTX 680 card. The two GPUs aren’t exactly the same though, as the GTX 760 chip is in a slightly milder state of tune, with just 1,152 CUDA cores (the original GTX 680 had 1,536 cores). The GTX 680 was also clocked a bit higher than the GTX 760, but Asus has made up for that by clocking the Mars 760 at the same clock speed as the original GTX 680, which is extremely high by today’s standards, at 1,006MHz with a 1,072MHz boost clock. Each GPU in the Mars has 2GB of RAM clocked at 6GHz, and it operates over a 256-bit interface. The board uses a custom PCB that is 11 inches long and has 12-phase power, but takes up only two PCIe slots. Asus has qualified this board for external SLI, so you could theoretically hook up two of these bad muthas for quad-SLI if you have the bankroll.</p> <p>In testing, the Mars 760 was indeed one of the fastest GPUs we’ve ever benchmarked, besting the more-expensive GTX Titan and GTX 780 Ti as well, but failing to dethrone the almighty GTX 690. In every test, it was basically neck-and-neck with the GTX 780 Ti, putting the Mars 760 right up there with the fastest of Nvidia’s arsenal, so kudos to Asus on that. In addition to its top-shelf performance, it was exceptionally quiet and cool, never rising above 80 C under load, even when overclocked to 1,215MHz. According to our records, this also makes it one of the coolest-running high-end GPUs we’ve tested recently, as the GTX 780 Ti runs at about 82 C, and the R9 290X runs at 94 C.</p> <p>There’s clearly a lot to like here, but there are also two big problems. First, the GTX 760 SLI can be purchased for $500 or less, making this card too expensive. Second, since it’s on par with the GTX 780 Ti, we imagine most people will just want that card since you don’t have to hassle with SLI. Overall, the Mars 760 is excellent, but nobody was asking for a card like this for Nvidia users, and its price is a bit tough to swallow, so maybe there’s a reason few have taken this route.</p> <p><strong>$650,</strong> <a href="http://rog.asus.com/">http://rog.asus.com</a></p> <p><em>Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the<a title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a>.</em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_mars_760_review#comments Asus Mars 760 Hardware maximum pc Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:48:47 +0000 Josh Norem 27846 at http://www.maximumpc.com CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/cyberpower_hadron_hydro_300_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>The birth of a new form factor</h3> <p>Form factors are never easy to define. For example, where’s the line between a mid-tower and a full-tower? And how do you define small form factor?</p> <p>Amid all this confusion, we thought we had at least defined what a micro-tower is: a thin and powerful PC with discrete graphics, such as the Falcon Northwest Tiki or Digital Storm Bolt. Easy, right?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/cyberpower_micro-12994_small2_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/cyberpower_micro-12994_small2.jpg" alt="Maybe we should call this a macro-tower?" title="CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300" width="620" height="757" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Maybe we should call this a macro-tower?</strong></p> <p>Wrong. CyberPower bends the definition with its new Hadron Hydro 300. At first glance, it looks like a micro-tower, but upon closer examination, you think, no, it’s not quite a micro-tower because it’s too wide, right? The box certainly isn’t as big as, say, the micro-ATX-based V3 Devastator that we reviewed in our Holiday 2013 issue. So, just what the frak is it? Maybe, as Senior Editor Josh Norem suggested, it’s a “macro-tower”—the bigger cousin to a micro-tower.</p> <p>There’s indeed an advantage to the just-a-bit-wider-than-a-micro-tower form factor. Every micro-tower we’ve seen is limited to air cooling or closed-loop cooling of the CPU only. The GPU, arguably the hottest part in the case, has to go it on air cooling alone. With the slightly wider Hadron, CyberPower is able to add a slick, miniaturized custom-cooling loop that keeps both the CPU and GPU cool. The rad isn’t some small jobbie, either, but a full-on dual-fan radiator mounted in the top. To make full use of the space, the system actually snakes liquid out through the back of the case and into the top using a very trick-looking set of chrome hard tubes. The fans are mounted under the rad in a push configuration, which vents hot air out the grill top.</p> <p>A full-on custom-cooling loop solves another issue we’ve see in micro-towers: noise. When enough hardware is pushed to the max in a micro-tower, it gets loud. The fastest micro-tower we’ve ever tested is Falcon’s Tiki, which we reviewed in our November issue. That box pushed the acoustic envelope, although its Haswell was also overclocked to an insane 4.7GHz.</p> <p>The Core i7-4770K in the CyberPower Hadron seems conservative at 4.2GHz, but the custom loop also absorbs the thermals from an EVGA Hydro Copper 2 GTX 780 card. Even under the heaviest loads, the system never got terribly loud. It’s not silent by a long shot, but it’s certainly quieter than most micro-towers when pushed hard.</p> <p>In performance, the Hadron represents well against the micro-towers we’ve tested. On the CPU side, it’s tied with or faster than all but the Falcon Northwest Tiki from our November 2013 roundup. Its liquid-cooled and overclocked GTX 780 outpaces or ties the micro-towers’ GPUs, as well. The Hadron also outruns the V3 Devastator we reviewed in our Holiday 2013 issue in all CPU-related tasks, but loses badly against the V3’s SLI’d GeForce GTX 770s. There’s just no way a single GeForce GTX 780 can manhandle SLI cards. That’s also why the CyberPower Hadron gets lumped up by our zero-point’s GeForce GTX 690 and its hexa-core processor.</p> <p>In the price-to-performance calculator, the CyberPower Hadron does OK, coming in at $2,300. Its closest competitor is the iBuypower Revolt from our November 2013 roundup, which cost $2,000—with a GeForce Titan. The V3 Devastator also offers a nice package at $2,500, although that box is definitely bigger and only gives you a Core i5 part.</p> <p>We should give the CyberPower Hadron its due respect, though—we’ve come to expect small boxes to run on air or off-the-shelf liquid coolers and that’s just not true anymore. This is a sexy little number.</p> <p><strong>$2,260,</strong> <a href="http://www.cypberpowerpc.com/">www.cypberpowerpc.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href="https://w1.buysub.com/pubs/IM/MAX/MAX-subscribe.jsp?cds_page_id=63027&amp;cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/cyberpower_hadron_hydro_300_review#comments CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300 Hardware maximum pc microtower Review Small Form Factor Reviews Systems Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:46:50 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27836 at http://www.maximumpc.com Asrock M8 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/asrock_m8_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Behold: The DIY micro-tower has finally arrived</h3> <p>We’ll be honest. We’ve been green with envy over micro-tower boxes. Alienware’s X51 first kicked off the party and since then, Falcon Northwest, Digital Storm, and iBuypower have followed suit.</p> <p>That’s fine and dandy for buyers of nicely crafted PCs, but what about the DIYer who likes to roll her own? Well, your time has finally come in Asrock’s new M8 tower.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/asrock_mini-12985_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/asrock_mini-12985_small.jpg" alt="BMW’s design group actually worked on the M8’s look and feel." title="Asrock M8" width="620" height="763" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>BMW’s design group actually worked on the M8’s look and feel.</strong></p> <p>The company has been known primarily as the cost-conscious option for enthusiasts, but there’s more to it than that. While Asrock’s motherboards have always been pretty budget, the company also is known to push the edge, giving you eyebrow-raising features at its eyebrow-raising prices.</p> <p>The M8 is an example of this. At 14.5 inches deep, 4.8 inches wide, and 15.5 inches tall, this micro-tower is similar to iBuypower’s Revolt. That means it’s definitely larger than Alienware’s X51, as well as the two other micro-towers in the world: Falcon Northwest’s Tiki and Digital Storm’s Bolt.</p> <p>The Asrock M8 isn’t just a chassis, though—it’s a bare-bones build. That means the micro-tower chassis comes with an <br />Asrock Z87-M8 Mini-ITX board, a 450-watt SFX PSU, and a slim-line optical drive.</p> <p>To get the M8 up and running, all you need to do is bring an LGA1150 CPU, some SO-DIMM RAM, and storage. If you want to play any real games, you also need to slot in a discrete GPU.</p> <p>The two main parts we want to dish about are the motherboard and the chassis. The motherboard is a standard Mini-ITX board, but apparently made just for the M8. We were initially turned off by the use of SO-DIMMs rather than DIMMs, but there is a trade-off to be made when you use the longer DIMMs in board space. The Z87-M8 features a full set of SATA 6Gb/s ports right where the full-size DIMMs would have gone. We can’t say getting six SATA ports is impossible with desktop DIMM slots, but it certainly would be more of a challenge. We’ll also note that this is no bare-bones, strippo motherboard. It features Creative Labs’ Core 3D audio with an amp designed to drive fat cans, an integrated mini PCIe 802.11AC/Bluetooth 4.0 card, a full-featured UEFI, and, since it’s Z87, it will support overclocking, too. The board also features a compelling set of utilities for updating and fan control that we recommend you not skip.</p> <p>The chassis itself is quite interesting. Asrock worked with BMW’s Designworks-USA on its looks. Externally, it’s easy on the eyes, and its aluminum doors and embedded handles give it a nice touch of class. The center of the chassis is mostly plastic and steel, though. In an interesting trick, both doors are held on with neodymium magnets that clamp on pretty well. There’s also a key to lock the doors in place, but we had issues with that because the latch kept getting stuck—on wires that had bunched underneath the lock, we think.</p> <p>Another nice touch is the BMW-like circular controller that lets you scroll between various systems settings. The knob doubles as a display with an integrated orange OLED that shows system info such as clock speed or the time and date.</p> <p>The two trickiest elements in modern micro-towers are the storage options and the graphic options. Alienware’s X51, for example, is limited to a single 3.5-inch HDD that can be swapped out for a pair of 2.5-inch drives. It’s been a limitation of the smaller chassis that we’ve long harped on. There’s no such constraint in the M8. Although a bit of a brain bender, the chassis lets you sandwich up to four 2.5-inch drives into a drive tray. If you need magnetic storage, you can actually reconfigure the 2.5-inch tray to hold a single 3.5-tray. If you still want your SSD, a fifth 2.5-tray is tucked under the PSU. It’s not fun to get in there, but at least you have the option.</p> <p>Our biggest complaint with building into the system was adding the GPU. First: The M8 will take a GPU with the max dimensions of 11.5x5.4x1.7 inches—so most single-GPU cards—and we were able to easily put a GeForce 780 Ti card into the space. Our issue was with the metal tray the card slides into. You have to remove both it and the top of the case to access the drive cage, but when trying to put the GPU tray back into the machine, we could not hit the exact position to screw it into place. We tried multiple angles and reseating, but it took brute force to get it back in. Is it us, is it our unit, or is it a design issues? We don’t know, but we haven’t seen any other complaints online about such a problem, so take it for what it’s worth. It certainly requires more work than other micro-towers we’ve seen, except for maybe the Bolt.</p> <p>To test the unit, we grabbed a few parts to see how it would run. This included a Core i5-4670K, 16GB of DDR3/1600, a pair of 120GB Corsair Neutron drives, and a GeForce GTX 780 Ti reference card. For the record, Asrock says the M8 is rated for GPUs with max TDP of 200 watts. We intentionally went over that limit with the GeForce GTX 780 Ti’s 250-watt TDP to see if the M8 could hack it. We then looped 3DMark overnight twice to see if it would melt. We didn’t see any issues but we suppose a full load of SSDs or an actual mechanical drive might add to the stress. If we did stick with a sub-200W GPU though, our options on the high-end are limited. The GeForce GTX 770 is 230 watts and the Radeon R9 280X is 250 watts, so the best AMD card you could use would be the Radeon R9 270X at 180 watts or a GeForce GTX 760 at 170 watts, according to the recommendations. Again, we ran our 250-watt GeForce GTX 780 Ti with no issues, but that’s not the same as running it for eight months through a blazing summer. Ideally, it would be nice if Asrock had a 500-watt PSU option on the M8.</p> <p>The other issue for the M8 is that, despite its size, there is no option for liquid cooling. There’s simply no place to put the cooler since the cover has no vent. We ran an Intel stock cooler in our build, and there are low-profile, more efficient coolers, but with such limited space, your overclock won’t get crazy. The liquid-cooled Falcon Northwest Tiki, for example, pushed its Haswell part up to 4.7GHz.</p> <p>So, where does that leave us? The M8 is imperfect. It could use a bigger PSU and more cooling, and the GPU tray, on our unit at least, was a pain. But it’s also a good value, performance-oriented, and let’s face it: Beggars can’t really be choosey. We’ve been groveling for months for a DIY solution, and this is as close as you can get today.</p> <p><strong>$450 (street),</strong> <a href="http://www.asrock.com/">www.asrock.com</a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the magazine.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/asrock_m8_review_2014#comments Asrock M8 February issues 2014 Hardware maximum pc Review Reviews Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:45:09 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27830 at http://www.maximumpc.com Breaking the Cold Mold http://www.maximumpc.com/closed_loop_water_cooler_reviews_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Two CPU coolers combine forces in different ways</h3> <p>Closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) have a number of advantages for enthusiasts. They can overclock higher than an air cooler but they don't require the expense, fiddling, or maintenance of a full-on custom loop. However, there hasn't been a lot of variety in the basic design lately. So today, we're taking a look at two CLCs that have broken from the herd. Cooler Master is working with Swiftech, which usually makes parts for custom loops, and Antec is putting its pump on the fans itself.</p> <h4>Cooler Master Glacer 240L</h4> <p>At first glance, the Glacer 240L is very similar to Swiftech's H220. This time, though, it sports two 120mm Cooler Master Blademaster fans, a beefier PWM pump, and a different cabling setup. Asetek sued Swiftech last year, alleging that the H220 infringed on some of its patents, and Swiftech pulled the product from US shelves; this collaboration with Cooler Master apparently allows them to stay in the game.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/glacer_240l_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/glacer_240l_small.jpg" alt="The 240L’s copper block comes polished to a mirror shine." title="Cooler Master Glacer 240L" width="620" height="412" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The 240L’s copper block comes polished to a mirror shine.</strong></p> <p>The 240L (named so because it sports a 240mm radiator) still has the H220's distinctively thick and shiny PVC tubes, which you can still detach using a Philips screwdriver. Technically it’s a semi-closed loop since once you’ve detached it from the water block you break the seal on it. One tank on the radiator includes a fill port to top it off after you’ve detached it.</p> <p>The LGA1150 backplate actually came pre-attached out-of-the-box, so it took a couple of minutes of tweaking to remove that. Since our test bed is LGA2011, we also had to replace the spring-loaded screws with another set included in the box. These are fixed to the bracket with tiny plastic clips that took some wrangling to get off. We'd recommend pliers. Overall, installation was more fiddly than usual, but it was actually the cabling that provided the biggest obstacle.</p> <p>There's no splitter cable in the box to combine the two fan cables into one. Normally, the fans get a splitter to plug into the CPU fan header. The SATA cable for powering the pump is straightforward enough. But the pump also has a 4-pin cable for PWM control—does that go into the CPU fan header, too? The documentation offers no guidance. Standard ATX motherboards max out at two fan headers that are actually designed to handle PWM hardware: They're usually labeled CPU Fan and CPU OPT, the latter of which is used for a second CPU fan. We had to scrounge a splitter cable from another company's kit to plug both fans into the board's CPU OPT.</p> <p>On the bright side, once you've conquered the installation phase, the cooling is excellent. In fact, the Glacer 240L is right up there with the Kraken X60, despite the latter having 280mm of surface area to work with. Then again, the X60 frequently gets down to $110, and the similarly performing Corsair H100i gets even lower. Both also have noticeably better noise levels, mostly because their pumps are much smaller. But the $140 price tag on the Glacer 240L still takes some convincing. How much do you value being able to replace the individual components and the coolant itself, or being able to expand the loop to add a video card, using standard G1/4 fittings? As the basis for a full-system loop, the Glacer 240L is practically a bargain. But if you just want to cool your CPU, there are more budget-friendly options out there, with smoother installation experiences.</p> <p><strong>Cooler Master Glacer 240L</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>$140, <a href="http://us.coolermaster.com/">www.coolermaster-usa.com</a><a href="http://www.transcend-info.com/global2.asp"></a></strong></p> <h4>Antec Kuhler H20 1250</h4> <p>CLCs look so similar these days that you usually have to install and benchmark them to detect differences in design and performance. Antec's Kuhler H20 1250, meanwhile, doesn't even need to be taken out of the box. You might ask, "What are those huge knobs on top of the fans?" Those aren't knobs. Those are the pumps. Yes, interestingly, Antec has chosen to integrate the motors that drive the fan and pumps into one. Why, we’re not sure, but there's something to be said for symmetry.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Specifications</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 263px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"></td> <td class="item-dark">Cooler Master Glacer 240L</td> <td>Antec Kuhler H20 1250</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Radiator Dimensions <br />(H x D x W)</td> <td>1.14 x 10.6 x 5 inches</td> <td>1.14 x 10.6 x 5 inches</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stock Fans</td> <td>2x 12cm PWM</td> <td>2x 12cm PWM</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Socket Support</td> <td class="item-dark">LGA1150/1155/1156/1366/2011; AM2/AM2+/AM3/AM3+/FM1/FM2/939</td> <td>GA775/1150/1155/1156/1366/2011; AM2/AM2+/AM3/AM3+/FM1/FM2</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Additional Fan Support</td> <td>2x 12cm</td> <td>2x 12cm</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> <p>On the other hand, the 1250 is one of the easiest installs that we've experienced. The fans come pre-installed, with their cables pre-attached to a splitter that's already plugged into the heatsink that sits on the CPU (which Antec refers to as a "cold plate"). There are two more cables coming out of the heatsink. One is a basic 3-pin job to provide power to the fans and pumps, and the other is an internal USB cable that allows you to control the fans through Antec's bundled Grid software. This is a basic application providing speed presets, temperature, and fan-speed data and graphs. The cold plate also has an LED on top whose color and behavior you can customize. You won't find Grid on Antec’s website, though, so if you lose the bundled installation CD, you might be in trouble. This was a pretty new product as this issue went to press, so that issue may be resolved by the time you read this.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/kuhler_1250_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/kuhler_1250_small.jpg" alt="Since the H20 1250’s pumps are on the fans, the &quot;cold plate&quot; over the CPU can be very low-profile." title="Antec Kuhler H20 1250" width="620" height="402" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Since the H20 1250’s pumps are on the fans, the "cold plate" over the CPU can be very low-profile.</strong></p> <p>The biggest downside to this unit is the sheer real estate it requires. A standard radiator is 25mm thick, as is a case fan. That's about two inches total. The Kuhler 1250 needs about 3.5 inches, though the extra bulk is mostly centered on the pumps sitting on top of the fan motors. We had no problem in our test bed, but we chose its Corsair 900D case primarily for its cavernous interior. The 1250's effective thickness is bigger than a radiator with one fan on each side, so if that wouldn't fit in your case, this probably won't either. We couldn't fit it into two different mid-tower cases; it bumped into the heatsinks around the CPU tray. Antec does not have a compatibility chart, so sizing would have to be tested on a (pardon the pun) case-by-case basis. Since that's not very practical, this is effectively a cooler for a full-tower or super-tower ATX case (especially if you have any plans to add a second set of fans on the other side of the radiator). And you may still encounter physical obstructions.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span><br /> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>Glacer 240L Quiet /Performance Mode<br /></strong></td> <td><strong>Kuhler H20 1250 Quiet /Performance Mode</strong></td> <td><strong>Kraken X60 Quiet / Performance Mode</strong></td> <td><strong>Kraken X60 Quiet / Performance Mode</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Ambient Air</td> <td class="item-dark">22.7 / 23.2</td> <td>24 / 22.5</td> <td>20.9 / 20.7</td> <td>20.3 / 20.5</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Idle Temperature</td> <td>33.7 / 29.5</td> <td>35.8 / 31.7</td> <td>29.7 / 28.8</td> <td>30.7 / 29.3</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Load Temperature</td> <td class="item-dark">67.2 / 62.8<strong><br /></strong></td> <td>69.3 / 63.3</td> <td>66 / 61.8</td> <td>67.1 / 61</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Load - Ambient</td> <td><strong>44.5 / 39.6</strong></td> <td>45.3 / 40.8</td> <td>45.1 / 41.1</td> <td>46.8 / 40.5</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Price</td> <td>$140<strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> <td>$120 (street)</td> <td>$120 (street)</td> <td>$110 (street)</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> <p><em>All temperatures in degrees Celsius. All tests performed with an Intel Core i7-3960X at 4.1GHz, on an Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard, in a Corsair 900D with stock fans set to Standard.<br /></em></p> <p>The 1250 has excellent performance and acceptable noise levels, fortunately. It’s right in line with premium CLCs such as the NZXT Kraken X60 and the Corsair Hydro H100i. It even has a solid three-year warranty. But with the pumps integrated into the fans, you can never replace or upgrade the fans. If they are damaged at some point, or if they wear down after the warranty expires, you have to replace the whole kit. When you consider both the lack of flexibility and the huge physical footprint, it's difficult to recommend the Kuhler 1250 over the competition.</p> <p><strong>Antec Kuhler H20 1250</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>$120(street), <a href="http://www.antec.com/">www.antec.com</a></strong></p> <p><em>This article was taken from the February 2014 issue of the magazine.</em></p> </div> </div> </div> </div> </div> http://www.maximumpc.com/closed_loop_water_cooler_reviews_2014#comments Air Cooling Antec Kuhler H20 1250 Cooler Master Glacer 240L feature Hardware Kaya February 2014 maximum pc Features Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:42:35 +0000 Tom McNamara 27888 at http://www.maximumpc.com