Hardware http://www.maximumpc.com/taxonomy/term/41/ en Nvidia Titan X Review http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_titan_x_review_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A new hero descends from the heights of Mount GeForce</h3> <p>In ancient Greek mythology, the Titans are the immediate descendants of the primordial gods. So it is with the Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan, descended from the company's top-shelf professional workstation GPUs. <a title="Nvidia GeForce GTX Titan review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/evga_geforce_gtx_titan_review" target="_blank">First debuting in March 2013</a>, the original Titan was nearly the most powerful video card that the company could offer. They sealed off a couple items that would be of little interest to gamers, which also prevented professionals from using these much less expensive gamer variants for workstation duties.</p> <p>In the two years since, the company has iterated on this design, adding more shader processors (or "CUDA cores," as Nvidia likes to call them), and even adding a second GPU core on the same card. Now the time has come for it to deliver the Maxwell generation of super-premium GPUs, this time dubbed the <strong>GTX Titan X</strong>. And it's a beast. Despite being stuck on the 28nm process node for several years now, the company continues to extract more and more performance from its silicon. Interestingly, the card goes up for sale today, but only at Nvidia's own online storefront. There is currently a limit of two per order. The company tells us that you'll be able to buy it from other stores and in pre-built systems "over the next few weeks." First-world problems, right?</p> <p><img src="/files/u99720/nvidia_titan_5159.png" alt="Titan X" title="Titan X" width="620" height="401" style="text-align: center;" /></p> <p>These days, you can use the number of shader cores as a rough estimate of performance. We say "rough" because the Maxwell cores in this Titan X are, according to Nvidia, 40 percent faster than the Kepler cores in the earlier Titans. So when you see that the Titan X has "only" 3072 of them, this is actually a huge boost. It's about 30 percent more than the GTX 980, which is already a barnstormer. For reference, the difference in shader count between <a title="Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/asus_rog_poseidon_gtx_780_review" target="_blank">the GTX 780</a> and the original Titan was about 16 percent. The Titan X also has an almost ridiculous 12GB of GDDR5 VRAM. We say "almost" because Nvidia has some ambitious goals for the resolution that it expects you to be able to play at with this card.</p> <p>At the Game Developers Conference two weeks ago, its reps pitched the Titan X to us as the first GPU that could handle 4K gaming solo, at high settings. They demoed Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, which wasn't a solid 60fps, as they readily acknowledged. But we did see all the graphics settings cranked up, and gameplay was smooth at about 45fps <a title="G-Sync introduction video" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/acer_4k_g-sync_monitor_tested_gtx_980_video" target="_blank">when paired with a G-Sync monitor</a>. As its name implies, G-sync synchronizes your monitor's refresh rate to the frame rate being delivered to your video card, which vastly reduces tearing. They also enabled motion blur, which can help mask frame rate drops.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/titanx3.jpg" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>For our review, we used seven high-end cards that have come out in the same two-year time frame as the original Titan. Some of these are no longer sold in stores, but they still provide an important frame of reference, and their owners may want to know if upgrading is going to be worth it.</p> <p style="font-weight: normal;">Note that the clock speeds in the charts on the next page are not all for the reference versions. These are for the particular models that we used for this review. The GTX 980 is the MSI Gaming 4G model; the GTX 970 is the Asus GTX970-DCMOC-4GD5; the GTX 780 is the Asus&nbsp;STRIX-GTX780-OC-6GD5 (and the reference model also has 3GB of VRAM instead of 6GB); and the Radeon R9 290X is the MSI Lightning edition. We used the prices for the reference versions, however.</p> <h3 style="text-align: right;"><a title="GeForce Titan X Review Page 2" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_titan_x_review_2015?page=0,1" target="_self">Click here to turn to page 2 for the specs!</a></h3> <hr /> <p>Let's take a look at their specs:</p> <div class="spec-table orange" style="font-size: 12px; font-weight: normal;"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td></td> <td>Titan X</td> <td>Titan&nbsp;</td> <td>GTX 980</td> <td>GTX 970</td> <td>GTX 780 Ti</td> <td>GTX 780</td> <td>R9 290X</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Generation</td> <td>&nbsp;GM200</td> <td>&nbsp;GK110</td> <td>&nbsp;GM204</td> <td>&nbsp;GM204&nbsp;</td> <td>&nbsp;GK110&nbsp;</td> <td class="item-dark">&nbsp;GK104</td> <td>Hawaii</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Core Clock (MHz)</td> <td>&nbsp;1,000</td> <td>&nbsp;837</td> <td>&nbsp;1,216</td> <td>&nbsp;1,088</td> <td>&nbsp;876</td> <td>&nbsp;889</td> <td>"up to" 1GHz</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Boost Clock (MHz)</td> <td>&nbsp;1,075</td> <td>&nbsp;876</td> <td>&nbsp;1,317</td> <td>&nbsp;1,228</td> <td>&nbsp;928</td> <td class="item-dark">&nbsp;941</td> <td>N/A</td> </tr> <tr> <td>VRAM Clock (MHz)</td> <td>&nbsp;7,010</td> <td>&nbsp;6,000</td> <td>&nbsp;7,000</td> <td>&nbsp;7,000</td> <td>&nbsp;7,000</td> <td>&nbsp;6,000</td> <td>5,000</td> </tr> <tr> <td>VRAM Amount</td> <td>&nbsp;12GB</td> <td>&nbsp;6GB</td> <td>&nbsp;4GB</td> <td>&nbsp;4GB</td> <td>&nbsp;3GB</td> <td>&nbsp;6GB</td> <td>4GB</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Bus</td> <td>&nbsp;384-bit</td> <td>&nbsp;384-bit</td> <td>&nbsp;256-bit</td> <td>&nbsp;256-bit</td> <td>&nbsp;384-bit</td> <td>&nbsp;384-bit</td> <td>512-bit</td> </tr> <tr> <td>ROPs</td> <td>&nbsp;96</td> <td>&nbsp;48</td> <td>&nbsp;64</td> <td>&nbsp;56</td> <td>&nbsp;48</td> <td>&nbsp;48</td> <td>64</td> </tr> <tr> <td>TMUs</td> <td>&nbsp;192</td> <td>&nbsp;224</td> <td>&nbsp;128</td> <td>&nbsp;104</td> <td>&nbsp;240</td> <td>&nbsp;192</td> <td>176</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Shaders</td> <td>&nbsp;3,072</td> <td>&nbsp;2,688</td> <td>&nbsp;2,048</td> <td>&nbsp;1,664</td> <td>&nbsp;2,880</td> <td>&nbsp;2,304</td> <td>2,816</td> </tr> <tr> <td>SMs</td> <td>&nbsp;24</td> <td>&nbsp;15</td> <td>&nbsp;16</td> <td>&nbsp;13</td> <td>&nbsp;15</td> <td>&nbsp;12</td> <td>N/A</td> </tr> <tr> <td>TDP (watts)</td> <td>&nbsp;250</td> <td>&nbsp;250</td> <td>&nbsp;165</td> <td>&nbsp;145</td> <td>&nbsp;250</td> <td>&nbsp;250</td> <td>290</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Launch Date</td> <td>March 2015</td> <td>March 2013</td> <td>Sept 2014</td> <td>Sept 2014</td> <td>Nov 2013</td> <td>May 2013</td> <td>Oct 2013</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Launch Price</td> <td>&nbsp;$999</td> <td>&nbsp;$999</td> <td>&nbsp;$549</td> <td>&nbsp;$329</td> <td>&nbsp;$649</td> <td>&nbsp;$699</td> <td>$549</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p>You probably noticed that the Titan X has a whopping 96 ROPs. These render output units are responsible for the quality and performance of your anti-aliasing (AA), among other things. AA at 4K resolutions can kill your framerate, so when Nvidia pitches the Titan X as a 4K card, the number of ROPs here is one of the reasons why. They've also made a return to a high number of texture mapping units. TMUs take a 3D object and apply a texture to it, after calculating angles and perspectives. The higher your resolution, the more pixels you're dealing with, so this is another change that serves 4K performance well.</p> <p>"SM" stands for "streaming multi-processor." Stream processing allows a GPU to divide its workload to be processed on multiple chips at the same time. In Nvidia's architecture, each one of these SMs contains a set of CUDA cores and a small amount of dedicated cache memory (apart from the gigabytes of VRAM listed on the box). Having 50 percent more SMs than your next-fastest card should give you an impressive jump in performance. The result won't be linear, though, becuase the Titan X has lower clock speeds—those extra one billion transistors on the Titan X generate additional heat, so lowering clocks is the main way of dealing with that. Its siblings the GTX 980 and 970 have "only" 5.2 billion transistors each, so they can set their clocks much higher.</p> <p><img src="/files/u160416/titanx2.jpg" width="620" height="390" /></p> <p>Despite all the silicon crammed into the Titan X, it still uses Nvidia's reference dimensions; it's only about 10.5 inches long, and it's not taller or wider than the slot bracket. If not for its darker coloring, you could easily confuse it for any baseline Nvidia card released in the past couple years. Its fan is noticeably quieter than the Titans that have come before, but it won't disappear into the background like we've seen (heard) when Nvidia's partners install their own cooling systems. If you want reliable quietude, you'll have to wait for EVGA's Hydro Copper version, which attaches to a custom water-cooling loop, or try your hand at <a title="Accelero Hybrid GTX 680 Review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/arctic_cooling_accelero_hybrid_gtx_680_review" target="_blank">something like Arctic Cooling's Accelero Hybrid.</a></p> <p>One card arguably missing from our lineup is the Titan Black. However, <a title="Nvidia GeForce GTX 780 Ti review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/gigabyte_gtx_780_ti_oc_review" target="_blank">the GTX 780 Ti</a> is basically the same thing, but with a 3GB frame buffer instead of a 6GB frame buffer, and slightly lower clock speeds.</p> <p><a title="AMD Radeon R9 290X review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/gigabyte_radeon_r9_290x_oc_review" target="_blank">The Radeon R9 290X</a> is the fastest GPU that AMD currently has available, so we thought it would make for a good comparison, despite being about a year and a half old; and the MSI Lightning edition is arguably the beefiest version of it.</p> <p>Before we show you the benchmarks, here's the system that we used to test these cards:</p> <div class="spec-table orange" style="text-align: center;"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td><strong>Part</strong></td> <td><strong>Component</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">CPU</td> <td class="item-dark">Intel Core i7-3960X (at stock clock speeds; 3.3GHz base, 3.9GHz turbo)</td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU Cooler</td> <td>Corsair Hydro Series H100</td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Mobo</td> <td class="item-dark">Asus Rampage IV Extreme</td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>4x 4GB G.Skill Ripjaws X, 2133MHz CL9</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Power Supply</td> <td>Corsair AX1200</td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td>1TB Crucial M550</td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>Windows 8.1 64-bit</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Case</td> <td>NZXT Phantom 530&nbsp;</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <p>Our Sandy Bridge-E system is getting a little long in the tooth, but the Intel Core i7-3960X is still quite a beefy chip and fine for benchmarking video cards. We'll probably be moving to the Haswell-E platform soon.</p> <p>We test with every game set to its highest graphical preset and 4x multi-sampled anti-aliasing (MSAA). Sometimes individual settings can be increased even further, but we leave these alone for more normalized results. That's because these settings are usually optimized for a specific brand of cards, which can end up skewing results. For example, we leave PhysX disabled. We did make one exception, to show you how much of an impact certain niche settings can have: At 3840x2160, we tested Tomb Raider with TressFX on, and TressFX off. Since this hair-rendering tech is an open spec, both Nvidia and AMD can optimize for it.</p> <p>MSAA is not an available setting in Tomb Raider, so we use 2x super-sample antialiasing (SSAA) instead. This form of AA generates a higher resolution frame than what the monitor is set at, and squishes the frame down to fit.</p> <p>All Nvidia cards in this roundup were tested with the 347.84 drivers, which were given to us ahead of release and are scheduled to be available for everyone to download on March 17th. The Titan X is also scheduled to hit retail on this day. We tested the R9 290X with <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/amds_year_end_gift_gamers_catalyst_omega_special_edition_driver_2014" target="_blank">AMD's Omega drivers released in December</a>.</p> <h3 style="text-align: right;"><a title="GeForce Titan X Review Page 3" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_titan_x_review_2015?page=0,2" target="_self">Click here to see the benchmarks and analysis!</a></h3> <hr /> <p>We test with a mix of AMD-friendly and Nvidia-friendly titles (it seems like you're either one or the other, these days); Metro: Last Light, Hitman: Absolution, and Tomb Raider usually favor AMD; Batman: Arkham Origins, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and Unigine Heaven favor Nvidia. In all cases, we use their built-in bechmarks to minimize variance.</p> <h3>1920x1080 Bechmark Results, Average Frames Per Second</h3> <h4 style="font-size: 12px;"> <div class="spec-table orange" style="font-weight: normal;"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> <td> <p>Metro:</p> <p>Last Light</p> </td> <td> <p>Arkham</p> <p>Origins</p> </td> <td> <p>Hitman:</p> <p>Absolution</p> </td> <td> <p>Shadow of</p> <p>Mordor</p> </td> <td> <p>Tomb</p> <p>Raider</p> </td> <td> <p>Unigine</p> <p>Heaven</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Titan X</td> <td>&nbsp;93</td> <td>&nbsp;127</td> <td>&nbsp;84</td> <td class="item-dark">&nbsp;106</td> <td>&nbsp;205</td> <td>&nbsp;97</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Titan</td> <td>&nbsp;63</td> <td>&nbsp;80</td> <td>&nbsp;63</td> <td>&nbsp;67</td> <td>&nbsp;129</td> <td>&nbsp;57</td> </tr> <tr> <td>980</td> <td>&nbsp;86</td> <td>&nbsp;99</td> <td>&nbsp;70</td> <td>&nbsp;93</td> <td>&nbsp;164</td> <td>&nbsp;79</td> </tr> <tr> <td>970</td> <td>&nbsp;71</td> <td>&nbsp;81</td> <td>&nbsp;59</td> <td>&nbsp;72</td> <td>&nbsp;132</td> <td>&nbsp;61</td> </tr> <tr> <td>780 Ti</td> <td>&nbsp;72</td> <td>&nbsp;84</td> <td>&nbsp;70</td> <td>&nbsp;77</td> <td>&nbsp;142</td> <td>&nbsp;69</td> </tr> <tr> <td>780</td> <td>&nbsp;67</td> <td>&nbsp;77</td> <td>&nbsp;65</td> <td>&nbsp;71</td> <td>&nbsp;122</td> <td>&nbsp;62</td> </tr> <tr> <td>290X</td> <td>&nbsp;82</td> <td>&nbsp;111</td> <td>&nbsp;64</td> <td>&nbsp;84</td> <td>&nbsp;143</td> <td>&nbsp;65</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </h4> <p>You probably noticed that the GTX 780 trades blows with the original GTX Titan, despite the Titan having better specs. The 780 benefits from a higher clock speed and an enhanced cooler designed by Asus. Historically, Nvidia has not allowed its partners to use vendor-specific coolers on the Titan cards, so the other cards with slightly lower specs and better cooling could catch up with some overclocking. However, Nvidia says that the Titan X was highly overclockable despite using a reference cooler, so we'll be exploring that soon.</p> <p>The 780 Ti handily beats the original Titan despite also using reference clock speeds, because the Ti variant is basically a Titan Black, which is the sequel to the original Titan and came out about a year later. (And the Titan X is a physically black card, while the Titan Black is not. It can get a little confusing.)</p> <p>Meanwhile, the R9 290X beats all the Kepler generation cards, except in Hitman: Absolution, which is usually a bastion for AMD's GPUs. It looks like Nvidia has figured out some driver optimizations here.</p> <p>In general, the Titan X says to the other cards, "Get on my level." It's clearly operating on a different tier of performance.&nbsp;<a title="Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_geforce_gtx_980_review2014" target="_blank">The GTX 980</a> also stays generally ahead of the 290X by a comfortable margin.</p> <h3>2560x1440 Bechmark Results, Average Frames Per Second</h3> <h4 style="font-size: 12px;"> <div class="spec-table orange" style="font-weight: normal;"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> <td> <p>Metro:</p> <p>Last Light</p> </td> <td> <p>Arkham</p> <p>Origins</p> </td> <td> <p>Hitman:</p> <p>Absolution</p> </td> <td> <p>Shadow of</p> <p>Mordor</p> </td> <td> <p>Tomb</p> <p>Raider</p> </td> <td> <p>Unigine</p> <p>Heaven</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Titan X</td> <td>&nbsp;64</td> <td>&nbsp;90</td> <td>&nbsp;60</td> <td class="item-dark">&nbsp;77</td> <td>&nbsp;129</td> <td>&nbsp;61</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Titan</td> <td>&nbsp;44</td> <td>&nbsp;58</td> <td>&nbsp;43</td> <td>&nbsp;49</td> <td>&nbsp;77</td> <td>&nbsp;38</td> </tr> <tr> <td>980</td> <td>&nbsp;59</td> <td>&nbsp;71</td> <td>&nbsp;46</td> <td>&nbsp;67</td> <td>&nbsp;105</td> <td>&nbsp;48</td> </tr> <tr> <td>970</td> <td>&nbsp;47</td> <td>&nbsp;59</td> <td>&nbsp;39</td> <td>&nbsp;51</td> <td>&nbsp;81</td> <td>&nbsp;36</td> </tr> <tr> <td>780 Ti</td> <td>&nbsp;51</td> <td>&nbsp;62</td> <td>&nbsp;48</td> <td>&nbsp;56</td> <td>&nbsp;86</td> <td>&nbsp;42</td> </tr> <tr> <td>780</td> <td>&nbsp;47</td> <td>&nbsp;59</td> <td>&nbsp;44</td> <td>&nbsp;52</td> <td>&nbsp;80</td> <td>&nbsp;40</td> </tr> <tr> <td>290X</td> <td>&nbsp;54</td> <td>&nbsp;83</td> <td>&nbsp;54</td> <td>&nbsp;63</td> <td>&nbsp;91</td> <td>&nbsp;40</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </h4> <p>As we ratchet up the resolution (while keeping all other graphical settings the same) we see the performance separation begin. While everyone comfortably sustained 60-plus fps at 1080p, older GPUs struggle to maintain that threshold at 2560x1440, as does the GTX 970. We're pushing 77 percent more pixels onto the screen, and the original Titan's relatively low number of ROPs, low clock speeds, and Kepler-generation CUDA cores combine to make an obstacle that the other cards don't have to deal with. The new Titan X is producing well over 50 percent more frames in some of these tests, despite generating less noise, about the same amount of heat, and costing about the same. Wringing these kind of gains from the same 28nm process node is pretty impressive. It comfortably beats AMD's best card in every test. Tomb Raider and <a title="Batman: Arkham Origins review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/batman_arkham_origins_review_2014" target="_blank">Batman: Arkham Origins</a> distinguish themselves as two particularly well-optimized games.&nbsp;</p> <p>The R9 290X remains ahead of Nvidia's Kepler cards and pulls away in Hitman. AMD's 512-bit bus provides a wide pipe for memory bandwidth, and that advantage emerges once you move past 1080p. It's not until we encounter newer premium cards like the GTX 980 and Titan X that we find a competitive alternative from Nvidia. And when the Titan X arrives, it makes a statement, decisively maintaining 60-plus fps no matter what we threw at it. We'd want nothing less from a card that costs nearly three times as much as the 290X. The GTX 980 gets more mixed results here, but it still looks like a great card for playing at this resolution.</p> <h3>3840x2160 Bechmark Results, Average Frames Per Second</h3> <h4 style="font-size: 12px;"> <div class="spec-table orange" style="font-weight: normal;"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 265px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td> <p>&nbsp;</p> </td> <td> <p>Metro:</p> <p>Last Light</p> </td> <td> <p>Arkham</p> <p>Origins</p> </td> <td> <p>Hitman:</p> <p>Absolution</p> </td> <td> <p>Shadow of</p> <p>Mordor</p> </td> <td> <p>Tomb</p> <p>Raider*</p> </td> <td> <p>Unigine</p> <p>Heaven</p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Titan X</td> <td>&nbsp;35</td> <td>&nbsp;53</td> <td>&nbsp;33</td> <td class="item-dark">&nbsp;44</td> <td>&nbsp;44/60</td> <td>&nbsp;26</td> </tr> <tr> <td>Titan</td> <td>&nbsp;24</td> <td>&nbsp;34</td> <td>&nbsp;22</td> <td>&nbsp;25</td> <td>&nbsp;26/37</td> <td>&nbsp;18</td> </tr> <tr> <td>980</td> <td>&nbsp;32</td> <td>&nbsp;41</td> <td>&nbsp;24</td> <td>&nbsp;37</td> <td>&nbsp;36/48</td> <td>&nbsp;20</td> </tr> <tr> <td>970</td> <td>&nbsp;24</td> <td>&nbsp;32</td> <td>&nbsp;19</td> <td>&nbsp;28</td> <td>&nbsp;27/37</td> <td>&nbsp;15</td> </tr> <tr> <td>780 Ti</td> <td>&nbsp;27</td> <td>&nbsp;38</td> <td>&nbsp;23</td> <td>&nbsp;32</td> <td>&nbsp;29/40</td> <td>&nbsp;19</td> </tr> <tr> <td>780</td> <td>&nbsp;26</td> <td>&nbsp;35</td> <td>&nbsp;23</td> <td>&nbsp;30</td> <td>&nbsp;27/38</td> <td>&nbsp;18</td> </tr> <tr> <td>290X</td> <td>&nbsp;28</td> <td>&nbsp;41</td> <td>&nbsp;29</td> <td>&nbsp;37</td> <td>&nbsp;31/43</td> <td>&nbsp;17</td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </h4> <p style="text-align: left;"><span style="font-weight: normal;">*<em>TressFX on/TressFX off</em></span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: normal;">When you look at these results, it's important to keep in mind that our review process does not aim for playable framerates. We want to see how these cards perform when pushed to the limit. Despite this demanding environment, the Titan X remains a viable solo card to have at 4K, though it's still not ideal (putting aside for the moment <a title="4K Monitors: Everything You Need to Know" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/4k_monitor_2014" target="_blank">the technical resolution difference between DCI 4K and Ultra HD 4K</a>). The good news is that 4xMSAA is arguably not needed at a resolution this high, unless you're gaming on a big 4K HDTV that's less than a couple of feet from your eyes.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: normal;">Those with screens that are 32 inches or smaller will probably be fine with 2xMSAA, or some version of SMAA (</span><span style="font-weight: normal; font-size: 1em;">Enhanced Subpixel Morphological Antialiasing), which is known to be quite efficient while producing minimal blurriness and shimmering. Nvidia's TXAA (Temporal Anti-Aliasing) can be a good option when you have one of the company's cards and are playing a game that supports the feature. And with the Maxwell generation of cards (the Titan X, GTX 980, and GTX 970), you also have MFAA, or&nbsp;Multi-Frame Sample Anti-Aliasing. The company claims that this gets you 4xMSAA visual quality at the performance cost of 2xMSAA.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: normal; font-size: 1em;">The GTX 780 nearly catches up with the 780 Ti at this resolution, again demonstrating the importance of clock speeds, although the difference is pretty modest in this scenario. At 4K, this GTX 780's additional 3GB of VRAM also comes into play. The 6GB card spends less processing power on memory management. However, the 780 does not support 4-way SLI, if that's your thing. It's limited to 3-way SLI. The GTX 970 and 980 have the same difference with their SLI support. The GTX 960 is limited to only 2-way SLI. This is one of the methods that Nvidia uses to encouraging the purchase of their more expensive cards. All Titans support 4-way SLI.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: normal; font-size: 1em;">The R9 290X maintains its lead over Kepler, though it shrinks inside the margin of error at times. It's weakest in Unigine Heaven, because this benchmark makes heavy use of tessellation (dynamically increasing surface complexity by subdividing triangles in real time), and that's something that Kepler and Maxwell do much better. In general, it's a very respectable performer, especially for the price, which has fallen to roughly that of a GTX 970. Since the 290X is meaningfully faster in every single benchmark that we used, and it bumps up against the GTX 980 when we get to 4K, it makes for a pretty good spoiler until the Titan X arrives and leapfrogs everyone in the contest.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: normal; font-size: 1em;"><img src="/files/u160416/titanx1.jpg" width="620" height="393" /></span></p> <h3><span style="font-weight: normal; font-size: 1em;">Conclusion</span></h3> <p><span style="font-weight: normal; font-size: 1em;">Overall, things are looking pretty rosy for the Titan X. Since it's packed with a huge amount of ROPs, SMs, shader processors, and VRAM, it's able to overcome the limitation of the aging 28nm process. The Maxwell-generation CUDA cores are also about 40 percent faster than the older Kepler version (by Nvidia's estimation, at least), and the company improved color compression for additional performance gains. It's not the Chosen One if you want to game with a single GPU at 4K, but you can get pretty close if you're willing to tweak a few graphical settings.</span></p> <p><span style="font-weight: normal; font-size: 1em;">Also keep in mind that it was about one year ago when Nvidia debuted the GTX Titan Z, which has two Titan Black GPUs on a single card. So they may plan to drop a dual Titan X sometime soon, as well. And there's room in the lineup for a "980 Ti," since there's quite a spec gap (and price gap) right now between the GTX 980 and the GTX Titan X. If that's not enough, <a title="AMD Radeon R9 370 Core Edition Leaked" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/xfx_radeon_r9_370_core_edition_leaks_web_higher_end_r300_series_cards_follow" target="_blank">rumors around AMD's next generation of video cards are reaching a boiling point</a>. There's always something new around the corner, isn't there? But if you're comfortable with this price tag, and you don't care about what AMD's got cooking, the Titan X is the fastest thing you'll find for gaming beyond 1080p.</span></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/nvidia_titan_x_review_2015#comments Gaming gpu Hardware Nvidia Titan X sli Video Card Reviews Tue, 17 Mar 2015 19:00:13 +0000 Tom McNamara 29579 at http://www.maximumpc.com Intel NUC5i5RYK Review http://www.maximumpc.com/intel_nuc5i5ryk_review_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Need Ultrabook components in a tiny desktop?</h3> <p>Intel’s quasi-barebones NUC PC is back for round three, with the sexy-named “NUC5i5RYK” SKU leading the charge. Equipped with Intel’s i5-5250U dual-core CPU, clocked at 1.6GHz, the processor still comes soldered to the NUC’s motherboard. And once again, owners will have to bring their own OS to the party.&nbsp;</p> <p>In terms of form factor, the NUC is still extremely portable—it measures 4.5x4.3x1.3 inches and weighs one pound, 4 ounces. Ports include four USB 3.0, one Mini HDMI 1.4a, one Mini DisplayPort 1.2, and an Ethernet jack. In addition to the new Broadwell proc, there are several upgrades to the NUC5i5RYK. This NUC now supports up to 16GB of 1866MHz SO-DIMM RAM, with its two memory slots. This addition is appreciated, considering the old NUC D54250WYKH SKU would only support 1,600MHz RAM. For the purposes of this review, Intel provided us with 8GB of HyperX DDR3L RAM clocked at 1,600MHz, but you’ll have to BYO if you want to join in on the NUC party. In addition, this NUC does away with both SATA and mSATA slots and replaces them with the faster M.2 standard, previously known as the Next Generation Form Factor. For review purposes, Intel provided us with its own 530 series M.2 SSD and Samsung’s more expensive XP941 series 256GB drive, to give us an idea of how an enthusiast M.2 SSD could take advantage of the speedier slot. Finally, another nice addition to this is an 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 combo adapter. With previous SKUs, you bought your own.&nbsp;</p> <h3><img src="/files/u154082/intel_nuc_broadwell.png" alt="intel nuc broadwell" title="intel nuc broadwell" width="620" height="461" /></h3> <p>Accessing all of these components is just as easy as unscrewing four screws on the bottom of the NUC. Owners may be happy to hear that the base uses captured screws, which means they won’t fall out. Users will be able to install their M.2 drives by unscrewing a single screw, which anchors the drive in place (we had to use a small Phillips head screwdriver here because our standard screwdriver was too big). You can also pry open and change the top cover. The default black lid pops out easily enough with a thin flathead screwdriver. Intel says there will be different color options available, but we don’t really see this catching on in much of a big way outside of the enthusiast NUC community.&nbsp;</p> <p>Considering that Broadwell is a “tick” on Intel’s tick-tock roadmap and equates to a new 14nm manufacturing process, our CPU is focused more on power efficiency than pure performance gains. Oddly enough, however, we saw a bit of the reverse to be true in our test. Measuring the wattage, this NUC5i5RYK soaked up roughly one watt less at idle than the <a title="Haswell nuc review" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/intel_nuc_d54250wykh_review" target="_blank">D54250WYKH Haswell NUC</a> we reviewed last year, but consumed roughly five more watts when we stressed it under Prime95 and Furmark. Thankfully, this Broadwell NUC made up for it in performance, where it bested its Haswell cousin by roughly 7–10 percent in our CPU benchmarks.&nbsp;</p> <p>While the CPU gains were admirable, we saw a bigger delta in our graphics benchmarks. The NUC5i5RYK uses Intel’s HD Graphics 6000, and while it doesn’t hold a candle to the <a title="Gigabyte Brix Pro" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/small_PCs_2014?page=0,2" target="_blank">Gigabyte Brix Pro</a> we reviewed last year, which uses Intel’s top-of-the-line Iris Pro graphics, it is a step up compared to Intel’s HD Graphics 5000 series, beating it by 10–45 percent in our graphics tests.&nbsp;</p> <p>Considering that the box is quite small, you might be wondering how hot or loud it gets. When the NUC is sitting idle, it’s both cool and quiet. Under the onslaught of our benchmarks, however, the fan did rev up, but it was hardly offensive. The box also got a little warm to the touch, but nowhere near as scorching as the Gigabyte Brix Pro, which is an enthusiast NUC gunning for performance.</p> <p>The real story here pertains to the included M.2 slot, which allows for some ridiculous storage speeds. With Intel’s 530 Series M.2 SSD installed, we saw sequential-read and -write speeds of 419MB/s and 213.6MB/s, respectively, using our CrystalDiskMark benchmark. Those numbers aren’t super impressive, but considering that a 180GB drive will run you $105, it isn’t a super high-end SSD either. When we plopped in Samsung’s more expensive ($254) XP941 256GB M.2 drive, however, we got stupid sequential-read and -write speeds of 1,089MB/s and 798MB/s, respectively. You’re grandmother’s traditional 2.5-inch SSDs can’t touch those numbers, as they are limited to SATA III’s 6Gb/s bandwidth cap. What makes M.2 drives interesting is that they come in different sizes and even have different connectors. Interesting tidbit aside, the downside of M.2 SSDs at the moment is that they aren’t as plentiful as traditional 2.5-inch SSDs, and are still quite expensive. Alas, this is the price you pay for being an early adopter.</p> <p>If you can stomach the extra cashola that the M.2 slot currently demands, then you’ll appreciate some of the tweaks that this NUC brings to the table. The included Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are greatly appreciated, and we like that you can stuff speedier RAM in the box, which could further bolster the integrated graphics. Like other NUCs, we still feel that it’s going to be a pretty niche product at the end of the day. It’s certainly not hard to build into, and could be a good first step for the noob PC builder. That said, the fact you have to purchase your own storage, RAM, OS, and install all the drivers yourself may turn off PC noobs from picking up what is essentially a pretty cool Ultrabook tossed into a small desktop form factor.&nbsp;</p> <p>$400</p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/nuc_broadwell_specs.png" width="620" height="189" /></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/nuc_broadwell_benchmarks.png" width="620" height="358" /></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/intel_nuc5i5ryk_review_2015#comments broadwell Desktop Hardware intel NUC next unit of computing NUC5i5RYK Review small pc Windows News Reviews Mon, 16 Mar 2015 23:12:02 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29591 at http://www.maximumpc.com An Inside Look at How Logitech Designs Its Gaming Mice http://www.maximumpc.com/inside_look_how_logitech_designs_its_gaming_mice2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u154082/dsc01600.jpg" alt="logitech gaming mouse" title="logitech gaming mouse" width="250" height="141" style="float: right;" />The science and testing behind Logitech’s gaming mice</h3> <p><em>This is part two of our in-depth tour of Logitech’s facilities in Switzerland. This article focuses on how Logitech designs and develops its gaming mice. For an inside look at how the company is attempting to reinvent the mechanical keyboard, click <a title="logitech mechanical keyboard" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/how_logitech_reinventing_mechanical_keyboard2014" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p> <p>While Logitech is generally viewed as a peripheral manufacturer, the company views itself as a technology company. In an attempt to show PC gamers that it uses cutting-edge design methodologies, Logitech invited us to its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland to show us how the company designs and tests it gaming mice.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/I-Aq-KBMPEs" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Logitech explains how its G402 mouse uses two sensors</strong></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><img src="/files/u154082/g402_hyperion_fury.jpg" alt="logitech g402 hyperion fury" title="logitech g402 hyperion fury" width="200" height="214" style="float: left; margin: 5px;" /></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Logitech G402 Hyperion Fury<br /></strong>The company’s most interesting mouse today is arguably the G402 Hyperion Fury, which it claims to be “the world’s fastest gaming mouse.” Logitech boasts that the G402 can move a blistering 12.5 meters a second. To achieve this, Logitech says it uses a combination of two sensors. At slow-to-moderate speeds, the mouse uses a traditional optical sensor. Optical sensors are arguably the most common sensors used in gaming mice and use high-speed cameras to take blazing-fast images of the surface it rests upon. From here, the sensor then overlaps the images to create a movement map. While the cameras used in Logitech’s optical sensors are magnitudes faster than the traditional point-and-shoot cameras you find at your camera store (think about 12,000 shots a second), the company says that even they have detectable lag when you’re trying to move a mouse at 12.5 meters a second. Therefore, beyond a certain speed threshold, the G402 switches over to an accelerometer/gyroscope solution. It uses a small ARM processor that can switch on the fly, and Logitech claims less than a millisecond of delay results from the switch. While a gyroscope solution isn’t the most accurate sensor at low speeds, Logitech says they excel when there is a quick burst of movement, thus the G402 uses a hybrid solution that aims to leverage both sensor’s strengths to achieve its speed.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/63jEXIwiFHk" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>An indepth interview with Logitech's mouse expert Chris Pate</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/logitech_g302.jpg" alt="Logitech G302 Daedalus Prime" title="Logitech G302 Daedalus Prime" width="200" height="166" style="float: left; margin: 5px;" /></p> <p><strong>Logitech G302 Daedalus Prime<br /></strong>While this hybrid sensor seems advantageous for the end user, we were surprised to hear that the company’s even newer G302 Daedalus Prime mouse opts instead to support a more traditional optical solution. Logitech told us the reason the hybrid solution wasn’t included was because the G302 was designed to be a smaller, lighter MOBA mouse, and trying to house two sensors along with the G402’s ARM processor wasn’t ideal to achieve this compact form factor. This isn’t to say the G302 doesn’t have its element of uniqueness, however.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/1JgJyTegDqc" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Logitech says its mice are good for at least 20 million clicks</strong></p> <p>Because MOBAs like League of Legends and DOTA 2 feature tons of clicking, the Daedalus Prime is largely focused on eliminating the travel between the mouse’s buttons and its microswitches that activate commands. The G302 is able to do this by separating the left and right mouse buttons from the body of the mouse (Logitech says most mice use a monolithic design), and having them rest directly on top of the microswitch. This means that there is no air travel between the button and the switch at all. In the absence of air travel, Logitech designed a new metal spring tensioning system that rests between the button and the switch. When we asked Logitech if this could potentially add unwanted tension, which could theoretically create microscopic amounts of lag in and of itself, the company assured us that it didn’t, but rather aided in a consistent clicking experience.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/VKmfG_Wv14Q" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A Logitech contraption that measures mouse accuracy</strong></p> <p><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u152332/buildit-12387_small.jpg" alt="logitech g602" title="logitech g602" width="200" height="165" style="float: left; margin: 5px;" /></p> <p><strong>Logitech G602<br /></strong>One of the best-selling mice that Logitech currently offers is its G602 wireless mouse. According to Logitech, when you look at the mouse industry as a whole, wireless mice outsell wired ones. This might not be true for gaming, but with the G602, Logitech worked to overcome many of gamers’ fears.</p> <p>The most obvious concern for gamers is lag. According to Logitech, lag on the G602 is imperceptible. The company ran an experiment where it asked a group of gamers if they could detect any noticeable lag using its wireless gaming mouse. People said they believed it felt laggier than a traditional wired mouse. When Logitech plugged in a faux wired cable (that did nothing), the same users said it felt much more responsive. Essentially, Logitech asserts that it was merely the placebo effect at play. According to Logitech, the G602 is capable of delivering a two millisecond response time. The company says that most people can only detect latency at four milliseconds and beyond. According to its own studies, some people can’t even perceive 40 milliseconds of lag.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/GcFGIFAhAqg" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Logitech has a special room that removes all wireless signals to detect wireless dead zones for its wireless mice.</strong></p> <p>Logitech claims it could have gotten the G602’s response time under two milliseconds, but at the cost of battery life, which is actually the true obstacle of a wireless gaming mouse. By scaling it back to two milliseconds, Logitech says it was able to get much more battery life out of the G602, which it asserts is able to get 250 hours of use out of a single charge. How is the company able to achieve those figures? Logitech says that it designed the G602 with battery in mind and created a sensor specifically for gaming wirelessly. The G602 also uses Logitech’s proprietary USB interface. When we asked them why it didn’t use Bluetooth, the company informed us that the response rate of Bluetooth devices are at the mercy of the host (computer) device. The G602, in particular, uses a 1,000Hz polling rate through USB.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/V3Aro0DNpGk" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Logitech proving that there is no added acceleration to its mice.</strong></p> <p>Other interesting things we learned about mice from Logitech is that no sensor is 100 percent accurate. You might see that terminology used to market mice from other vendors, but Logitech asserts that these claims are simply false.</p> <p>Another question we had pertained to laser mice. Several years ago, laser mice were quite popular because they tracked on a wider range of surfaces compared to optical. While laser mice aren’t terrible, optical mice have one key advantage over them, and that comes down to accuracy variance, more commonly referred to as “mouse acceleration.” Mouse acceleration is undesired for gaming and generally equates to an inconsistent movement experience. According to Logitech, with laser mice, you get about a five to six percent variance, making for an inconsistent experience, compared to an optical sensor’s one percent equivalent.</p> <p>One final interesting tidbit that we learned is that many gamers prefer braided cables on their mice, but Logitech’s data shows that more pros actually prefer plastic cables as they tend to offer more flexibility. So if you want to play like a pro, you might want to consider ditching the braided cable.</p> <p>For more pictures and information from the event, check out our image gallery below.&nbsp;</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/inside_look_how_logitech_designs_its_gaming_mice2015#comments Daedalus Prime esports G302 G402 g602 gaming mice Hardware hyperion fury logitech moba mouse shooter wireless Gaming News Mice Features Tue, 27 Jan 2015 19:35:46 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29321 at http://www.maximumpc.com Alienware Alpha Review http://www.maximumpc.com/alienware_alpha_review2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A great console-sized PC stuck in the alpha stage</h3> <p>As great as PC gaming is, let’s face it, when it comes to gaming in the living room, consoles have the PC beat. Alienware and the Steam Machines were supposed to change that, but considering <a title="steam machine delayed" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/controller_tweaks_prompt_valve_delay_steam_machines_until_2015" target="_blank">Valve delayed its hardware initiative</a>, Alienware decided to releases its box early as a small Windows 8.1 PC, dubbed the <a href="http://www.maximumpc.com/alienware_alpha_console_invasion_scheduled_holiday_2014"><strong>Alienware Alpha</strong></a>. While the PC does an admirable job of attacking the PC’s problem areas in the living room, as the name implies, it’s still (unfortunately) in a bit of an alpha stage.</p> <p>The chassis is black and small. Measuring 2.1x7.8x7.8 inches, the Alpha is closest in size to Nintendo’s Wii U console. At 4.5 pounds, Alienware’s little PC is also extremely portable. We had an easy time lugging it around to friends’ apartments with four controllers inside a backpack. Speaking of controllers, the unit comes with a black wireless Xbox 360 controller.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/alienware-alpha-1920.jpg" alt="alienware alpha review" title="alienware alpha review" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>Ports on the Alpha include two USB 3.0, three USB 2.0, one S/PDIF, and two HDMI (one for output and another for input). It is a little disappointing that there isn’t an analog headset port, but Alienware told us it was one concession it had to make to produce such a small form factor.</p> <p>The box’s aesthetics aren’t very flashy. It’s got some sharp angles, akin to Alienware’s gaming laptops, a glowing triangular LED, and a glowing Alienware power button. You can also customize the LEDs through Alienware’s UI. Overall, it will look nice sitting next to your TV.</p> <p>Inside the box, the Alpha is running a mobile GPU based on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 860M, which was the same graphics card used in the <a title="hp omen" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/hp_omen_review_2014" target="_blank">HP Omen</a> gaming laptop we reviewed last month. Since this box has such a unique setup, the Omen seemed like the fairest candidate for a zero point to test against. Its GPU runs at 1,020MHz and has 2GB of GDDR5 VRAM clocked at 1,253MHz. Compared to our ZP, however, the Alpha’s performance was a disappointing 11 percent slower in our Metro: Last Light and 3DMark 11 benchmarks. It did perform 7 percent better in BioShock Infinite, however. Overall, the Alpha is nowhere near the most powerful gaming PC out there, but it should be able to run most AAA games on medium to high settings. It will, at the very least, be competitive with the next-gen consoles.&nbsp;</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/alpha_tv.jpg" alt="alpha tv" title="alpha tv" width="620" height="342" /></p> <p>One aspect of the Alpha that we feel isn’t up to snuff is system RAM; our unit only offered what we feel is a minimal 4GB. Sure, the majority of games should run fine on 4GB, but that’s beginning to change with newer titles. We think Alienware should up the Alpha’s base RAM to 8GB. Luckily, you can upgrade the RAM to 8GB, though you’ll need laptop RAM to do so.</p> <p>You can also upgrade the storage with any 2.5-inch drive. If you’re like us, you’ll really want to do this. Our unit came with a 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive, which was embarrassingly slow. It took the Alpha one minute and 35 seconds to boot up, and then another 35 seconds to boot up into Steam Big Picture Mode. If you’re loading a really big game, it’s only going to lengthen the wait.</p> <p>At the heart of the console is the Alpha’s i3-4310QT CPU. Despite the box’s size, it’s actually a quad-core desktop CPU running at 2.9GHz. You can upgrade this to a quad-core i7, too. And you may want to, considering this i3 gets beat up by 30–54 percent compared to the HP Omen’s mobile i7-4710HQ processor. While dual-core CPUs are fine for the majority of games, for a little more future-proofing, we would have preferred at least a quad-core i5 chip.</p> <p>Of course, the hardware means very little if the software isn’t properly optimized to take over the living room. While the Alpha is running Windows 8.1 underneath, Alienware has wrapped its own user interface around it, which you can navigate with a controller. The Alpha UI also allows you to launch directly into Steam Big Picture Mode, which comes pre-installed. Because some Steam games only offer partial controller support, Alienware has done some super-nifty software tweaks to allow you to use an Xbox controller like a mouse in a pinch. You can do this by pressing down on all four shoulder buttons and pressing down on the left stick. This will allow you to navigate past any pop-up window boxes.</p> <p>The Alpha isn’t perfect, however. One of the taglines Alienware is using for the Alpha is that it “combines the freedom of PC gaming with the ease of a console,” but the slogan doesn’t always ring true. We encountered some resolution issues. For instance, in Shadow of Mordor, it defaulted to 1280x1024 resolution on our 1080p TV and had no in-game option to adjust it to 1080p. Some games that allowed us to adjust the resolution ended up blacking out the screen when we cranked it up to 1080p. Meanwhile, some games would open up off-center in a windowed mode by default. When we tried to boot up Skyrim, it gave us an error message that read, “Failed to initialize renderer. Your display doesn’t support the selected resolution.”</p> <p>The consoles also allow you to watch Netflix, and the only real good way to do that on the Alpha at the moment is to boot it up to the desktop mode, but here you’ll need to have a keyboard/mouse plugged in. Because of that, we really recommend getting something like <a title="k400" href="http://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/wireless-touch-keyboard-k400r" target="_blank">Logitech’s wireless K400 keyboard</a>, which pairs well with the Alpha.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154082/alpha_010.png" alt="alpha review" title="alpha review" width="620" height="349" /></p> <p>Another area in which the consoles have at a little easier than PC gaming is that console gamers don’t have to tweak their settings. Nvidia has a solid workaround to this problem with its GeForce Experience, but unfortunately the Alpha does not support GeForce optimal playable settings, which is a shame considering many console noobs might not know which graphical knobs to twist.</p> <p>At $550, the Alpha certainly isn’t cheap, especially when you look at its specs and compare it to the consoles. And the Alpha has a bunch of little software hiccups to overcome. Despite these problems, however, when the Alpha works, it’s awesome. Steam has a surprising number of fun local co-op games like Broforce, SpeedRunners, and more. Alienware’s box does a great job of bringing PC games to the living room. Sure, you could build a cheaper, more powerful system, but Alienware has spent a decent amount of R&amp;D trying to solve the software/UI issues. Yes, the box is in a bit of an alpha stage right now and isn’t the console-killer it set out to be, but we hope that Alienware continues to make future iterations of the Alpha. As it stands, the Alpha is a good machine for the PC vet, but not a perfect solution for the console noob.</p> <p><strong>Alienware Alpha Specs</strong></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/alienware_alpha_benchmarks.png" alt="alienware alpha benchmarks" title="alienware alpha benchmarks" width="620" height="373" /></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/new_spec_chart.png" alt="alienware alpha specs" title="alienware alpha specs" width="615" height="249" /></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/alienware_alpha_review2015#comments alienware alpha review console Hardware small gaming pc steam machine Valve Windows Gaming News Reviews Mon, 26 Jan 2015 22:21:34 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29316 at http://www.maximumpc.com Sound Supremacy: Six Gaming Headsets Reviewed http://www.maximumpc.com/sound_supremacy_six_gaming_headsets_reviewed2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Great sound is a gaming necessity—we put six hotshot headsets to the test</h3> <p>For a gamer, top-notch sound is just as important as great graphics. Fancy, polygon-pushing GPUs may get all the attention in gaming, but if you pair them with a crappy pair of speakers or a low-rent headset, you’re ruining the immersion and depriving yourself of a competitive advantage.</p> <p>Click <a title="gaming headset" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/best_gaming_headset_2013" target="_blank">here</a> to read our last roundup of gaming headsets.</p> <p>And if you do want excellent sound, a headset is the most practical way to go. Speakers are great, but they take up a lot of space, and unless you’re gaming in your own fortress of solitude, those window-rattling bass thumps might not be appreciated by your neighbors or family. A high-quality headset gets you right inside the game, keeping the outside world out and the gaming world in.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.opener15408_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.opener15408_small.jpg" width="620" height="470" /></a></p> <p>We’ve rounded up six high-end units from respected peripheral makers, and put them through the paces. We evaluated each one based on the unique features it brings to the table, as well as the three criteria we value most: comfort, build quality, and audio performance.</p> <h3>Roccat Kave XTD</h3> <p><strong>This big headset delivers true 5.1 surround sound</strong></p> <p>German gaming-gear company Roccat has been on the scene for a few years now, but is still making products like it’s got something to prove. Roccat’s newest headset, the Kave XTD, is a remarkably solid entry into the fast-growing “true 5.1” market.</p> <p>Unlike “virtual 7.1” headsets, a true 5.1 unit such as the Kave XTD actually has multiple drivers in each ear, so that sounds that come from behind you in the game actually hit your ear from behind in real life. The result is excellent positional audio—easily the best of any of the headsets we tested for this article. For games as well as movies, the bass-heavy mix and convincing surround sound really enhance immersion. For music, the Kave XTD is acceptable but doesn’t stand out from the crowd.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15364_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15364_small_0.jpg" alt="The Kave XTD’s earcups feature a small opening that widens on the inside, sealing you off from the outside world." title="Roccat Kave XTD" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Kave XTD’s earcups feature a small opening that widens on the inside, sealing you off from the outside world.</strong></p> <p>The Kave XTD includes a nicely designed desktop mixer with a built-in “soundcard.” The mixer allows you to adjust your equalization on the fly and, interestingly, can connect to your smartphone with Bluetooth. When you get a call, you just punch a button on the mixer, and you can take it on the headset. Our only gripe with the mixer is that the Kave XTD is permanently connected to it—there’s no way to use the headset by itself, or even to take them apart to store them.</p> <p>Like many other true 5.1 headsets, the Kave XTD has a bit of a weight problem. It has a super-cushy padded headband to distribute the force from those maximum-diameter earcups, but it still started to feel a little oppressive during longer play sessions. We’d certainly prefer a slimmer design, but at this point in time, a little extra weight and size is just part of the trade-off for “true 5.1.”</p> <p>The other part of the trade-off is price. You get a lot of headset for your money, but the $170 price tag makes the Kave XTD more expensive than a lot of great-sounding cans. Still, if you want a well-built pair, and prioritize surround-sound gaming and movies above music, the Kave XTD is a strong choice.</p> <p><strong>Roccat Kave XTD</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>$170, <a href="http://www.roccat.org/ " target="_blank">www.roccat.org</a></strong></p> <h3>We’ve got you surrounded!</h3> <p>For a long time, surround sound and headsets were mutually exclusive. Headset manufacturers acknowledged the harsh reality that headphones, aka a pair of small speakers strapped to your dome, are by their nature a stereo experience. Even as 5.1 and 7.1 surround speaker setups started taking off in the home theater, and then with gaming PCs, nobody thought to market headsets as anything but stereo. All that has changed in the last couple of years, and now it’s hard to find a high-end headset that doesn’t claim to offer some sort of surround sound. Here’s a quick primer on the surround configurations you’re likely to encounter, and when they’re the right fit.</p> <p>7.1 Surround The hottest new trend in high-end headphones is being marketed as “Virtual 7.1” or even just “7.1 surround” headsets. Of course, these headphones still have exactly two drivers. The “7.1” label comes from the inclusion of built-in audio processing (these are always going to be USB headset or include a USB dongle or mixer) that takes a 5.1 or 7.1 surround signal from a game or movie, then mixes it down to two channels for the headset using techniques that create the illusion of three-dimensional sound. Of course, your game will do that by itself if you set it to output stereo audio, but the processing in a good pair of headphones will be better tuned to create positionality in a headset. The difference is noticeable, but not dramatic.</p> <p>5.1 Surround 5.1 surround headsets, on the other hand, actually physically include multiple physical drivers in each earcup for better sound positionality. This can make a big difference, particularly with picking out whether sounds are coming from in front of or behind you. The trade-off with true 5.1 headsets is that they tend to be expensive, large, and heavy. Further, the multiple smaller speakers usually don’t have quite the same dynamic range as the single large driver found in each earcup of stereo cans, making these inferior for listening to music.</p> <h3>Plantronics RIG</h3> <p><strong>A gaming headset for the smartphone generation</strong></p> <p>The RIG’s main selling point is that it’s a headset that does double duty—you plug your gaming hardware and your cell phone into a single mixer, then toggle between the two simply by flipping a switch. Unlike the Bluetooth connection found in the Kave XTD, the RIG connects to the phone with an audio cable. It’s less convenient, but the physical connection makes switching back and forth feel a little more responsive.</p> <p>The mixer also includes a nice set of hardware switches for controlling both gaming and phone volume and other settings. The RIG can also be used as a straight-up phone headset, as it comes with an extra wire with an inline microphone, if you want to ditch the mixer and the boom mic entirely. It’s a nicely designed product all around, with a simple look that favors clean, circular elements. The earcups and headband are plainer-looking than a lot of the competition, but they’re comfortable and feel reasonably solid. The circular control pod is similarly attractive and feels nice and heavy on the desk. Its various buttons, toggle and sliders all feel durable and high-quality.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans._155443_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans._155443_small.jpg" alt="The RIG can be detached from the desktop mixer for use on the go." title="Plantronics RIG" width="620" height="851" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The RIG can be detached from the desktop mixer for use on the go.</strong></p> <p>The RIG mixer is an interesting hybrid in that it uses your onboard analog ports but separates the microphone into a USB input. The mixer has three preset equalizer levels, but the stereo sound quality on the whole is neither outstanding nor unacceptable. You can find headsets with better sound quality for $100, but we have to assume anyone buying the RIG is at least partially invested in its unique, phone-based feature set.</p> <p><strong>Plantronics RIG</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>$100, <a href="http://www.plantronics.com/ " target="_blank"> www.plantronics.com</a></strong></p> <h3> <hr />CM Storm Pulse-R</h3> <p><strong>This aluminum-clad headset fails to make an impression</strong></p> <p>As a headset, the Pulse-R is pretty plain, aside from some nice-looking LED backlighting (which is not customizable, and necessitates an otherwise useless USB connection), and some removable aluminum cladding on the earcups. We’re all in favor of metal on our gaming hardware, but the aluminum here looks super cheap, particularly compared to the exposed steel in the headband. CMStorm advertises these aluminum plates as customizable, and they do indeed feature prominent hex screws if you’d like to swap them out, but we’re not totally sure what you’re meant to swap them out for.</p> <p>The headset’s construction feels solid, but we weren’t crazy about the earcup design. The squarish cans are an in-between <br />size—smaller than full circumaural cups, but a little larger than most on-ear earcups. We frequently found one or both ears getting bent out of shape while wearing the set. The leather earcups are nicely padded, but in all, we weren’t impressed with the set’s comfort.</p> <p>The Pulse-R also features a poorly executed inline control unit. It’s surprisingly large, with a cheap-feeling mute switch and volume slider. Despite the control’s huge size, the volume slider only has about 5mm of travel, making it pretty worthless for fine volume control.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15373_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15373_small.jpg" alt="The aluminum side plates on the Pulse-R are removable, but what you replace them with is anyone's guess." title="CM Storm Pulse-R" width="620" height="836" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The aluminum side plates on the Pulse-R are removable, but what you replace them with is anyone's guess.</strong></p> <p>Sound quality was toward the low end of this roundup, with bass that was powerful but not terribly clear. For music and movies, the sound quality was especially bad, producing muddled audio that sometimes made it hard to hear dialogue and higher parts.</p> <p>The CM Storm doesn’t fall terribly short in any one area, but consistent quality issues and questionable design choices leave us unable to recommend this as a smart purchase.</p> <p><strong>CM Storm Pulse-R</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_6.jpg" alt="score:6" title="score:6" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$90, <a href="http://www.cmstorm.com/ " target="_blank">www.cmstorm.com</a></strong></p> <h3>Tritton Kunai</h3> <p><strong>A light-weight headset for gamers on a budget</strong></p> <p>Selling for around $50, the Tritton Kunai sits right at the entry level for real, high-grade gaming gear. For products in this category, the question is always whether they’re actually a good option for budget-minded gamers, or if they’re just pretenders that managed to sneak out of the bargain bin. So, where does the Kunai land?</p> <p>First, let’s talk build quality. As you would expect with a cheaper headset, the Kunai cuts some corners on construction. In all, it’s all-plastic build feels perfectly fine, but two issues concern us: First, the headband is plastic throughout—there’s no steel core to the band. Second, the audio cable that’s attached to the headset is neither braided nor terribly thick. Both of these represent pretty easy ways the Kunai could wear out or break.</p> <p>The headset is very light, and surprisingly comfortable with its pair of well-padded, rectangular on-ear cups. Its flexible boom mic is removable, and the earcups swivel to more easily rest on your collarbones while not in use. Between the small, lightweight design, removable mic, and smartphone-ready audio cable, there’s a pretty compelling secondary use case for the Kunai as a portable headset that’s also good for playing games at home.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15381_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15381_small.jpg" alt="The Kunai is marketed as a gaming console headset, but it doesn’t have any console-specific features, other than audio-cable adapters." title="Tritton Kunai" width="620" height="891" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Kunai is marketed as a gaming console headset, but it doesn’t have any console-specific features, other than audio-cable adapters.</strong></p> <p>For this price range, sound quality on the Kunai is good. It can’t get anywhere near the clarity and power that some of the other headsets in this roundup offer, but that's what the extra $100 or so buys you. For at-home gaming use alone, you can find alternatives with better sound and features in this price range, as well. However, if you value light weight, portability, and value, the Kunai’s not a bad deal.</p> <p><strong>Tritton Kunai</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="http://www.maximumpc.com/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/maximumpc/i/mxpc_7.jpg" alt="score:7" title="score:7" width="210" height="80" /></div> </div> </div> <p><strong>$50, <a href="http://www.trittonaudio.com/" target="_blank">www.trittonaudio.com</a></strong></p> <h3>SteelSeries 9H</h3> <p><strong>A durable headset with excellent fundamentals</strong></p> <p>The Steelseries 9H is, first and foremost, a well-built set of cans. The headband is built of steel, clad in an extra-rugged plastic. The earcups feature the same durable plastic as well as thick leather pads that are much suppler and less cheap-feeling than the leather found on even the most high-end models. Despite its solid workmanship, the headset is quite light for its size, and comfortable even after long sessions.</p> <p>Sound quality is similarly respectable, with bass that can be pumped up to head-shaking levels without drowning out the respectably crisp mids and highs. By default, it seems tuned for gaming, but with the software equalizer you can get solid music and movie performance out of it, as well.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15366_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15366_small.jpg" alt="When retracted, the microphone on the 9H is flush with the earcup’s surface." title="SteelSeries 9H" width="620" height="873" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>When retracted, the microphone on the 9H is flush with the earcup’s surface.</strong></p> <p>The 9H is flexible, usable either as an analog headset, or with an included USB dongle that offers the standard suite of audio processing, including the ubiquitous Dolby Headphone virtual 7.1. It comes with adapters for separate audio and mic connections or a single three-pole jack for use with phones and tablets. The braided cable includes a compact in-line remote with volume control and mic switch, as well as an optional extension that brings the total cable length to over 9 feet. When you’re not using the flexible noise-cancelling mic, it retracts fully into one of the earcups.</p> <p><strong>Steelseries 9H</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>$160, <a href="http://www.steelseries.com/ " target="_blank">www.steelseries.com</a></strong></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>At $160, the 9H is very expensive for a wired stereo headset, but you get your money’s worth in comfort and audio quality. Some PC-exclusive gamers might find the similar-but-wireless Corsair Vengeance 2100 a better deal at around the same price, but for those specifically looking for a wired or analog version, the 9H is an excellent choice.</p> <h3>Corsair Vengeance 2100</h3> <p><strong>This wireless headset gives you your money’s worth</strong></p> <p>Since its first entry into the headset market about four years ago, we’ve been reliably impressed with Corsair’s gaming headphones. Corsair has consistently focused on build, comfort and audio quality, without tacking on needless features that send the price sky-high. The Vengeance 2100—the company’s new top-of-the-line set, is no exception.</p> <p>Like previous Vengeance headsets, the 2100 errs on the side of “too big.” It’s heavy because of the built-in battery, but it's not uncomfortable. We’d prefer a lighter headset, but Corsair’s designed the Vengeance 2100 to handle its bulk the right way—by spreading out the weight evenly with a broad, padded headband, and huge, cushy earcups.</p> <p>The Vengeance 2100 is a wireless “7.1 surround” headset. A lot of high-end headsets are calling themselves “7.1” these days, but that just means that they’re stereo with built-in audio hardware for simulated 7.1 surround sound. As with most such headphones, the 7.1 surround in the Vengeance 2100 is an improvement over unprocessed sound, but it doesn’t <br />offer quite the same positionality as “true 5.1” surround like that found in the Roccat Kave XTD.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15365_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc99.feat_cans.15365_small.jpg" alt="The Vengeance 2100’s extra-wide headband helps distribute its substantial weight." title="Corsair Vengeance 2100" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Vengeance 2100’s extra-wide headband helps distribute its substantial weight</strong></p> <p>The actual sound quality of the Vengeance 2100 is top-notch. The punchy base and defined mids are great for picking out noises on the virtual battlefield and in movies. Unlike many of the other gaming-tuned headsets, the Vengeance 2100 sounds great playing music, as well. The bass response is still excellent, without the indistinct highs that can make music sound muddy. A true audiophile probably won’t be in the market for a gaming headset in the first place, but it would be difficult to find headphones that sound better than this in the price range.</p> <p>Of course, one of the main selling points of the Vengeance 2100 is that it’s wireless. We found that the wireless worked perfectly, with no degradation of sound quality, good reception area, and an easy charging process. At $130, the Vengeance 2100 isn’t cheap, but it’s less expensive than most other high-quality wireless alternatives. With excellent sound quality, good comfort, and no major flaws, the Vengeance 2100 is a great deal and one we’d easily recommend.</p> <p><strong>Corsair Vengeance 2100</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>$170, <a href="http:// www.corsair.comm/ " target="_blank">www.corsair.comm</a></strong></p> <h3>Audiophile headphones for gaming?</h3> <p>Obviously, gaming headsets aren’t the only game in town when it comes to head-mounted audio. There are plenty of cheapo earbuds and on-ear headphones available for those who don’t care much about sound quality, but there’s also a whole world of audiophile hardware out there—high-quality headphones designed for maximum-fidelity audio. Most audiophile-grade equipment is seriously expensive, but some of the “entry-level” models fall in the $100–200 range, along with most of the headsets in this roundup. With sets like the Sennheiser HD558 highly regarded and available for $130, are there reasons to buy a gaming headset at all? Here are the pros and cons of using an audiophile version for gaming.</p> <p>Pros An audiophile headset will almost always give you better fidelity for playing music, so if that’s a major priority for you, you’d do well to consider going that route. Also, it’s been our experience that build quality tends to be a little better. Finally, audiophile headphones are a lot more understated, design-wise. Whether that’s a plus or a minus depends on your particular tastes, but we think there’s something to be said for subtlety.</p> <p>Cons To be able to use voice, you’ll have to buy a clip-on microphone. You can get one for next to nothing, but we’d recommend springing for one of the $20–30 models if you want good recording capabilities. Audiophile headsets don’t prioritize big booming bass the way gaming varieties do, so if you like brain-rattling explosions in your games, or even if you’re a fan of bass-heavy music genres like hip-hop or EDM, you might not see much of an audio quality boost from cheaper audiophile cans. Lastly, many gaming headsets offer built-in audio processing, which can be a great value if you don’t have a dedicated sound card in your rig.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/sound_supremacy_six_gaming_headsets_reviewed2015#comments CM Storm Pulse-R Hardware June issues 2014 Plantronics RIG Roccat Kave XTD SteelSeries 9H Tritton Kunai Features Thu, 15 Jan 2015 22:11:35 +0000 Alex Castle 28567 at http://www.maximumpc.com HP Omen Review http://www.maximumpc.com/hp_omen_review_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>A good sign</h3> <p>The word “omen” generally connotes bad juju for most people. For some longtime PC enthusiasts, however, it evokes fond memories of Voodoo PC’s old beautiful and powerful desktops. While HP isn’t bringing Voodoo PC back from the grave, it hopes to pay homage to the Omen namesake by rebirthing it as a modern gaming notebook.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u99720/hpomen.jpg" alt="HP Omen press shot" width="492" height="366" /></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Omen isn't the most powerful notebook, but it's one of the most polished.</strong></p> <p>Right off the bat, you’ll notice that the 15.6-inch HP Omen is one sleek-looking laptop, with its machined-aluminum chassis. The anodized black finish coupled with its thin 0.8 inch body gives the notebook some added sex appeal. It’s also really portable for its class, weighing four pounds, 11.9 ounces.</p> <p>While we were a little dismayed to hear that it uses a 1080p monitor, something we’ve seen dozens of times over, this isn’t some mediocre display. It uses an IPS panel that features a 72 percent color gamut, which provides beautiful, saturated colors. It also sports a touchscreen, which makes it the first gaming laptop we’ve reviewed that offers one.</p> <p>We were generally pleased with the keyboard, which offers seven customizable color zones that you can tweak using HP’s Omen Control Panel software. The keys themselves offer a satisfying amount of travel and feel quite tactile, as a result. You also get a column of six macro keys on the left side of the keyboard, which is rare to see in a notebook of this size. We weren’t enamored of the Omen’s trackpad, however. Measuring 5.5 inches across, it’s so wide that we often found our resting fingers interfering with our swiping gestures.</p> <p>On opposite ends of the trackpad are a pair of LED lights that pulsate with the sound of your audio. It’s a unique touch that gives the notebook added flair. The speakers themselves are quite good and offer decent volume firepower. Despite being licensed by Beats Audio, a company known for its bass-heavy emphasis, the audio here is balanced.</p> <p>Unlike the sexy chassis, the specs of the laptop aren’t super fancy. It uses a 2.5GHz i7-4710HQ processor for its CPU. For its graphics card, HP went with the GeForce GTX 860M, which is the de facto GPU for thin gaming notebooks. The base model comes with two gigs of GDDR5 VRAM, but ours included four. In regard to system RAM, configs starts out at 8GB, which is fine in most instances, but our maxed-out unit came with 16GB.</p> <p>CPU performance was pretty average, performing ever so slightly faster than our Alienware 14 zero-point’s 2.4GHz i7-4700MQ processor. In GPU perf, we saw respectable gains between 20 and 60 percent. In short, our graphics tests reminds us that the 860M is a midrange card. It will run the majority of modern games at high settings with smooth framerates, but don’t expect to max out games here.</p> <p>While the laptop’s performance didn’t blow us away, neither did its fans (pun intended). The Omen isn’t silent, but it’s very reasonable under load. We’d go so far as to say HP found the perfect balance between performance and acoustics. The laptop is able to keep its cool by using dual fans that pull in cool air from the bottom, which it expels through the back. A benefit of this design is that gamers won’t have to worry about warm wrists.</p> <p>When it came to battery life, the laptop was pretty average. The first time we ran our video-rundown test, the notebook lasted a mediocre 172 minutes. When we turned off all the fancy LED lights, we got an extra half hour. Our biggest concern with the Omen really pertained to storage. While we love the fact that it uses the faster M.2 PCIe standard, we’re a little put off that it doesn’t support traditional hard drives. This means you’re topped off at 512GBs. Luckily, the drive is really fast, and allowed the notebook to boot up in 11 seconds.</p> <p>The Omen may not be the most powerful notebook out there, but it’s extremely polished and well-designed. Everything from its looks, portability, and thermals are top notch. While our decked-out unit cost $2,100, if you’re looking for a more affordable configuration, we recommend going with the $1,800 model, which includes a 512GB SSD, 8GB of RAM, and an 860M with 2GB of VRAM. It’s still a pretty good Omen.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/hp_omen_review_2014#comments Gaming Hardware HP Omen laptop notebook Thin voodoo pc Gaming Reviews Notebooks Wed, 17 Dec 2014 22:45:39 +0000 Jimmy Thang 29111 at http://www.maximumpc.com Blizzcon 2014: Gigabyte Shows New Brix Gaming PC and Top-Tier X99 Motherboard [Video] http://www.maximumpc.com/blizzcon_2014_gigabyte_shows_new_brix_gaming_pc_and_top_tier_x99_motherboard_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3><img src="/files/u166440/x99_ga_motherboard.jpg" alt="X99 Motherboard" title="X99 Motherboard" width="200" height="129" style="float: right;" />It’s not all about the games and cosplay</h3> <p>Blizzcon isn’t just a convention that revolves around all things Blizzard, such as the developer’s recently announced FPS game <a title="Overwatch article" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/blizzard_announces_team-based_shooter_%E2%80%9Coverwatch%E2%80%9D" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Overwatch</span></a>.&nbsp; Vendors and manufacturers, such as <strong>Gigabyte,</strong> are also there to advertise their products. Maximum PC online managing editor Jimmy Thang took the time to visit the Gigabyte booth, where he got to see the new model of the Brix Gaming PC kit and check out the topitier x99 motherboard.</p> <p>The Brix Gaming PC kit was revealed <a title="Brix Gaming" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/gigabyte_adds_gaming_mini_pc_brix_family311" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">back in June</span></a>, and the i5 processor model was released back in September. Jimmy was able to speak to a Gigabyte representative who showed him the yet-to-be-released Brix Gaming kit with an i7 processor and Nvidia GTX 760 GPU. Unlike the i5 model's green color, the i7 version will come in black and is expected to be out during late November or sometime in December.</p> <p>Be sure to watch the video to learn more:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/5WDmVGTS_KM?list=UUdLWXfNqKICJBpE8jVMm6_w" width="600" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: left;">Jimmy Thang also got to look at the GA-X99 Gaming G1 WIFI motherboard, which was one of three new X99 chipset mobos that was announced <a title="X99 motherboards" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/take_sneak_peek_three_upcoming_gigabyte_motherboards_haswell-e_2014" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">back in August</span></a>. This is the top-tier mobo, and features a heatsink that lights up and blinks with the beat of your music. The lights will also pulsate on and off, and can of course be turned off if you aren't into that flashing lights thing. It also sports the LGA 2011 socket-v3 socket for Haswell-E processors and is the first generation to have DDR4 memory support.&nbsp;</p> <p>The GA-X99 Gaming G1 WIFI is expected to sell for around $350 and is currently available online.</p> <p>For additional details, check out the video:</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//www.youtube.com/embed/PsE1B53H1kQ?list=UUdLWXfNqKICJBpE8jVMm6_w" width="600" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Follow Sean on&nbsp;<a title="SeanDKnight Google+" href="https://plus.google.com/+SeanKnightD?rel=author" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Google+</span></a>, <a title="SeanDKnight's Twitter" href="https://twitter.com/SeanDKnight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Twitter</span></a>, and <a title="SeanDKnight Facebook" href="https://www.facebook.com/seandknight" target="_blank"><span style="color: #ff0000;">Facebook</span></a></em></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/blizzcon_2014_gigabyte_shows_new_brix_gaming_pc_and_top_tier_x99_motherboard_2014#comments Brix Gaming PC gigabyte Hardware X99 Motherboard Gaming News Motherboards Sun, 09 Nov 2014 02:49:03 +0000 Sean D Knight and Jimmy Thang 28866 at http://www.maximumpc.com Best Free Hardware Monitoring Tools http://www.maximumpc.com/best_free_hardware_monitoring_tools_2014 <!--paging_filter--><h3>Apps that regulate your rig’s internals</h3> <p>Making sure your rig’s temperatures, hardware, and clock speeds are running correctly is a good way to monitor your PC’s health. We always recommend stress-testing your shiny-new rig, or checking your hardware if you experience any stability issues that occur out of the blue. We’ve gathered up a list of the best free utilities you can use to make sure you have a healthy PC.</p> <p>Know of any other free monitoring tools? Let us know in the comments section below!</p> <p><strong><a title="CPU-Z" href="http://www.cpuid.com/softwares/cpu-z.html" target="_blank">CPU-Z:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/cpuid_cpu_z.png" alt="CPU-Z" title="CPU-Z" /></p> <p>CPU-Z tells you what’s going on with your CPU by giving you readouts of your Core Speed, Multiplier, Bus Speed, and your different cache levels. It also tells you the make and model of your motherboard and video card, along with your RAM speed and capacity.&nbsp;</p> <p>We recommend using this tool if you have a preconfigured system from an OEM like Lenovo, HP, or Dell and need to find out your motherboard’s model number (if it isn’t printed on the board). The tool can also be used to monitor your CPU’s voltage, so it's overclocker friendly.</p> <p><strong><a title="GPU-Z" href="http://www.techpowerup.com/downloads/SysInfo/GPU-Z/" target="_blank">GPU-Z:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="/files/u154280/gpu_z.png" alt="GPU-Z" title="GPU-Z" width="560" height="637" /></p> <p>GPU-Z gives you detailed readouts of your GPU’s clock speeds and memory size. You can use this tool to make sure that your video card is running at PCIe 3.0, as some boards run in 2.0 instead of 3.0 by default. You’ll look at the Bus Interface box to check out your video card's PCIe configuration.</p> <p><strong><a title="Furmark" href="http://www.ozone3d.net/benchmarks/fur/" target="_blank">Furmark:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/furmark.png" alt="Furmark" title="Furmark" width="600" height="453" /></strong></p> <p>Got GPU problems? Furmark is a fantastic tool if you’re getting blue screens during games and want to find out if your video card is the culprit. The utility gives your GPU a workload to max-out your video card. You’ll also see a temperature read from it, so you can see if your card is running hot.</p> <p><strong><a title="FRAPS" href="http://www.fraps.com/download.php" target="_blank">FRAPS:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/fraps.png" alt="FRAPS" title="FRAPS" width="600" height="370" /></strong></p> <p>Getting weird frame rate issues after freshly installing BF4 or Assassins Creed Black Flag? FRAPS will give you readouts of your real-time frame rate in-game, so you can see when and where you rig is starting to stutter. We like using this utility when a game is running poorly, so we can keep an eye on our frame rate during gameplay. We also use this tool to capture average frame rates of games that don’t come with benchmarking tools like BF4, Far Cry 3, and Crysis 3.</p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a title="Core Temp" href=" http://www.alcpu.com/CoreTemp/" target="_blank">Core Temp:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/core_temp.png" alt="Core Temp" title="Core Temp" width="351" height="388" /></strong></p> <p>Unlike other utilities in this round-up of free apps, Core Temp tells you the individual temperatures of each of your CPU’s cores. We use this tool to make sure our processor isn’t running too hot. Core Temp also tells you the TDP, voltage, and power consumption of your&nbsp; CPU.</p> <p><strong><a title="AMD Catalyst Control Center" href="http://support.amd.com/en-us/download/desktop?os=Windows+7+-+64" target="_blank">AMD Catalyst Control Center:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/amd_overdrive.png" alt="AMD Catalyst Control Center" title="AMD Catalyst Control Center" width="600" height="573" /></strong></p> <p>AMD video card users can use AMD’s Catalyst Control center to monitor their video card’s performance. You’ll be able to change your GPU’s core and memory clock speeds by using AMD’s Overdrive utility, which is found in the performance tab of AMD’s Catalyst driver. You can also adjust your video card’s fan speed here.</p> <p><strong><a title="Prime 95" href="http://files.extremeoverclocking.com/file.php?f=205" target="_blank">Prime 95:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/prime_95_running.png" alt="Prime 95" title="Prime 95" width="600" height="378" /></strong></p> <p>Prime 95 puts your CPU through its paces by giving it a workload that will max-out your processor’s cores. We suggest using this utility if you’re having blue screen errors or freezing issues to make sure that your CPU isn’t the offender behind those infuriating messages.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a title="3DMark" href=" http://store.steampowered.com/app/223850/" target="_blank">3DMark:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/3dmark_demo.png" alt="3DMark" title="3DMark" width="600" /></strong></p> <p>3DMark is great for benchmarking your system’s overall performance, and the free demo version also shows you where your rig stacks up with other systems that have similar hardware. The paid version lets you run the Extreme benchmarks, which run in 1080p instead of the demo’s 720p default.</p> <p><strong><a title="Rainmeter" href="http://rainmeter.net/" target="_blank">Rainmeter:</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/rainmeter.png" alt="Rainmeter" title="Rainmeter" width="600" /></strong></p> <p>Rainmeter is a simple widget that displays your CPU and RAM usage and also tells you how full your hard drive and/or SSD are.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong><a title="EVGA Precision X" href=" http://www.evga.com/precision/" target="_blank">EVGA Precision X:&nbsp;</a></strong></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong><img src="/files/u154280/evga_precision_x.png" alt="EVGA Precision X" title="EVGA Precision X" width="600" height="471" /></strong></p> <p>Precision X is made by EVGA exclusively for Nvidia video cards. The tool allows you to check out your GPU clock speed and temperatures, and adjust your fan speeds, too. You can also overclock your GPU with the sliders, seen above. This tool displays your GPU's load, which we find quite handy.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/best_free_hardware_monitoring_tools_2014#comments apps benchmark components cpu id free furmark gpu z Hardware Hardware monitoring tools overclock pc monitor heat Software News Features Tue, 21 Oct 2014 23:41:16 +0000 Chris Zele 27117 at http://www.maximumpc.com How To Build a Home Theater PC http://www.maximumpc.com/how_to_build_a_home_theater_pc_2015 <!--paging_filter--><h3>We build a Thin Mini-ITX machine, which is not only small but fast, stackable, and packed with tons of storage</h3> <p>The Mission Today's HTPCs tend to be either diminutive NUC-style bricks, or big desktop cases bristling with hard drives and GPUs. For this month’s build, we decided to see if we could create something that offers decent performance and storage options while never screaming to the world that you have an HTPC tucked in your AV rack.</p> <p>In other words, we wanted to build a PC that at first glance would look like a Blu-ray or DVD player. For that, we turned to Silverstone’s austere PT12B and reached for the motherboard form factor no one ever thinks of: Thin Mini-ITX. Thin Mini-ITX is an extension of the Mini-ITX pushed by Intel. This board is primarily intended for use with DIY all-in-one PCs, and its claim to fame is being, well, thinner.</p> <p>No mobile CPU would be enough for our thin HTPC, so we reached for a desktop Haswell. Since the machine would be thin and stackable, we opted to include a slot-fed optical drive to class it up, too.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.rd_buildit_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.rd_buildit_small.jpg" width="620" height="364" /></a></p> <h3>Cramming in the hardware</h3> <p>We stuffed all of our hardware into a Silverstone PT12B Thin-ITX chassis. Oddly, this case doesn’t have cutouts for mounting wireless antennas, so we used a Netgear N600 USB adapter for our PC’s wireless duties. It’s not optimal, as we burn an external USB port, but the alternative would have been to put patch antennas inside an all-metal chassis, which we found even less ideal.</p> <p>We outfitted our case with a Gigabyte H87-TN motherboard, which comes with one mSATA port, four SATA 6Gb/s ports, a x4 PCI Express slot, and two SO-DIMM slots. Next, we threw in a Core i3-4330. This dual-core Haswell part has Hyper-Threading, buzzes along at 3.5GHz, and has a TDP of 54 watts. Cooling this power-sipper is Silverstone’s low-profile AR04 cooler, which&nbsp; fits perfectly into the 1.4-inch tall case.</p> <p>Now for the important stuff: the storage. We knew we wanted a fat drive for local storage duties, but we didn’t want to compromise on responsiveness, so we put in a Crucial M500 128GB mSATA SSD for $75, which gives us a fast boot disk with ample storage for our applications and OS. We then put in a mechanical hard drive for storing all of our movie media. We chose a 2TB Seagate/Samsung Spinpoint M9T drive, which claims the crown of thinnest 2TB drive available.</p> <p>To power all this equipment, we used a 150W AC adapter. These adapters are sometimes used in gaming notebooks, and they're compatible with Thin-ITX mobos. Our rig only pulls about 80W, so this is more than enough power. Last but not least, we also tossed in a slimline slot-fed optical drive, so we could play our ancient DVDs on it.</p> <div class="module-content"> <div class="module-text full"> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 620px; height: 283px;" border="0"> <thead></thead> <tbody> <tr> <td style="text-align: center;" colspan="3"><strong>Ingredients</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Part</strong></td> <td><strong>Component</strong></td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Case</td> <td class="item-dark">Silverstone PT12B</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>PSU</td> <td>Dell 150-watt power brick</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">Mobo</td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte H87-TN</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>CPU</td> <td>Intel Core i3-4330</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cooler</td> <td>Silverstone AR04</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>GPU</td> <td>Intel HD 4600</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>RAM</td> <td>2x4GB Corsair Value Select 1600MHz </td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Wireless Adapter</td> <td>Netgear N600 USB Adapter</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>SSD</td> <td>Crucial M500 120GB mSATA</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>HDD</td> <td>2.5 inch Seagate 2TB</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Optical drive</td> <td>Panasonic UJ8C5</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Cable Kit</td> <td>2x Silverstone Tek Ultra Thin SATA Cables</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Case Fan</td> <td>None</td> <td></td> </tr> <tr> <td>OS</td> <td>Windows 8.1 64-bit OEM</td> <td><a href="http://ad.doubleclick.net/clk;222199927;45833272;q?http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16822148840&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-BOTB-_-NA-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank">$120</a></td> </tr> <tr style="text-align: right;"> <td style="text-align: left;"><strong><br /></strong></td> <td style="text-align: right;" colspan="2"><strong>Click here to see the live bundle price:</strong>&nbsp; <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboBundleDetails.aspx?ItemList=Combo.1681472&amp;cm_mmc=BAC-MaximumPC-_-Combo-1681472-Budget-_-MaximumPC_BluePrint-_-NA&amp;nm_mc=ExtBanner" target="_blank"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/sites/maximumpc.com/themes/omega_maximumpc/img/newegg.jpg" alt="buy online at newegg" /></a></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> </div> <h4>1. Mount the motherboard and Install the CPU</h4> <p>Laying down this Thin-ITX board is similar to installing any other motherboard, but it only takes four screws to hold it in place. Once it's secure inside the chassis, put in your processor, making sure the pins line up correctly with the socket. At the top of the processor there will be two notches cut out of the CPU’s die to help you line up the CPU with the socket. Place the processor down and clamp it in place with the latch. For our processing needs, we went with the Core i3-4330, primarily because its TDP is 54 watts and our cooler only supports CPUs up to 60 watts. The 4330 gives us access to Intel’s efficient cores, which are top dog today.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u152332/mpc1002_small_0.jpg"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u152332/mpc1002_small.jpg" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. Install the Cooler</h4> <p>Installing our cooler was similar to installing an Intel stock unit, but it features a much smaller Z-height than Intel’s reference cooler designs. The AR04 has integrated heat pipes and can cool CPUs with up to 60-watt TDP—but it can be a tad loud.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.rd_buildit_small2_0.jpg"><img src="http://www.maximumpc.com/files/u152332/mpc100.rd_buildit_small2.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p>To install the heatsink, first put a dollop of thermal paste (about the size of a&nbsp; kernel of corn) onto the processor, then spread the paste around so the heatspreader is evenly covered. Once the paste is applied, attach the AR04 and push the heatsink’s push pins down until they lock into place with an audible click. After the heatsink is secured to the motherboard, plug the unit’s 4-pin power connector into the CPU fan header. To ensure that the cooler is properly attached, check to see that all push pins are firmly attached to the motherboard. If you’re unsure, you can remove the motherboard and check its underside to see if the pins are properly fastened into place.</p> <h4>3. Drop in the RAM</h4> <p>Our motherboard includes two SO-DIMM slots, so we snagged 8GB of DDR3/1600 Corsair Value Select RAM and tossed it in. We chose 1,600MHz modules because Thin-ITX boards are sometimes finicky with higher-clocked modules. DDR3/1866 and DDR3/2133 SO-DIMMs also come with voltage that’s too high for non-enthusiast boards. If you're asking, "Why on 8GB?" no application we’ll be using should even come close to using that much RAM. Yes, 4GB of RAM would have sufficed in a pinch, but it was only $35 more to move up to 8GB, so why not? Installation of the memory is similar to that of a laptop; it requires you to push the DIMMs in at angle, then slowly apply pressure until you hear them click into place.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc1001_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc1001_small.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>4. Install the mSATA drive</h4> <p>The 120GB Crucial M500 mSATA drive we chose for this rig was $75, meaning we paid roughly 62 cents for each Solid State gigabyte—a bargain-hunter’s dream! In the past, mSATA drives were very expensive at around $2 per gigabyte. We’re glad to see this has changed and more affordable solid-state storage is finally coming into the marketplace. Installing an mSATA may seem scary, but it’s just like installing a SO-DIMM with an added catch: You’ll need to screw it into place. Put the mSATA SSD into the mSATA slot at a low angle and press down on it slowly until it touches the screw mount on the motherboard, then screw it into place. Depending on your motherboard, you'll use either one or two screws to attach it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.rd_buildit_small3_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.rd_buildit_small3.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>5. Install the ODD</h4> <p>Putting in the ODD was quick and easy. We unscrewed the case’s ODD cage and dropped our DVD drive into it. You’ll need a small Phillips screwdriver for the miniature screws that hold the optical drive in place. Silverstone’s PT12B case, fortunately, comes with three of these screws, so if you have a spare slimline ODD with missing screws, this case has you covered. If you’re prone to losing screws, as we are, you can use a piece of tape to hold these puny screws in place while you work on your rig, and keep them from rolling away into oblivion.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.rd_buildit_small7_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.rd_buildit_small7.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p>When we last reviewed Cyberlink’s PowerDVD 13 Ultra media software (July 2013), we praised its ability to up-convert DVDs to look better than some Blu-ray movies. The software’s sharpening tool makes each image crisper and more vibrant. Unfortunately, VLC media player’s sharpening tool doesn’t come close to that of PowerDVD 13, which means you’ll have to fork over $100 to Cyberlink to get the best HD up-conversion experience. If you pony up for a Blu-ray drive, PowerDVD will sharpen those movies, too.</p> <h4>6. Bring on the Storage</h4> <p>For our 2.5-inch drive bay, we chose to go with a 2TB Seagate/Samsung Spinpoint M9T HDD. The Crucial M500 mSATA SSD in this rig provides us with&nbsp; zippy boot times (less than 10 seconds), but this mechanical hard drive gives us tons of room for storing our media. This is a media player PC, so we didn’t want to skimp on the storage. To install the 2.5-inch drive, first, unscrew the hard-drive cage from the inside of the case and remove it. Next, secure the drive to the cage using normal-sized HDD screws. To finish up the installation, secure the cage back into the case, then connect the drive to a SATA cable and SATA power cable.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.rd_buildit_small8_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.rd_buildit_small8.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p>This chassis has another cage on its underside, allowing you to attach the PT12B to a TV or PC monitor. You’ll want to have a substantial panel to attach this case to, as the full&nbsp; build weighs in at around 15 pounds. We would not recommend trying to attach it to a 22-inch panel; you'll likely destroy it in the process.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small_23.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small_22.jpg" title="Main Image" width="620" height="391" /></a></p> <h3>More than just a media Player</h3> <p>To see how well our thin HTPC performed, we threw it a slew of typical HTPC tasks: We downloaded a Steam game, watched DVDs upscaled to 1080P, and browsed the web. All this ran&nbsp; without the performance slowdowns that we remember so well from the cold, hard days of Atom-based HTPCs. We even did some very light-duty gaming, and it was surprisingly workable. We should note that "light-duty" is the operative term here. If you’re expecting real gaming in the living room, you’ll need a real GPU and probably at least a micro-tower form factor.</p> <p>For comparison, we stacked our thin HTPC machine against the spate of NUC/Brix machines we’ve seen recently. We were surprised that the Core i3-4330 didn’t perform as poorly as we expected against the Core i5-based NUCs, but to be fair, most of the NUC-style boxes we’ve tested pack dual-core mobile CPUs, not desktop quad-core parts. In our benchmarks, the thin HTPC basically body-slammed all of the NUCs we’ve ever tested, except one.</p> <p>That one exception is the kick-ass Gigabyte Brix Pro with its Core i7-4700R quad-core chip. The Brix Pro puts the little Core i3 in its place in every test except the Google Octane 2.0 benchmark, which doesn’t exactly push all the metal in the Core i7-4700R, anyway.</p> <p>We should mention there was a weird anomaly we encountered with our thin HTPC machine: the CPU had issues throttling down. Apparently, Gigabyte hasn’t updated its UEFI to support the newer Core i3-4330 CPU yet.</p> <p>The CPU never throttling down from 3.5GHz was both good and bad for our build. The good: We got every bit of performance possible out of the Core i3-4330’s 3.5GHz cores. The bad: Our cooler fan ran at a near constant 3,500rpm, making it louder than we had hoped. We hadn't exactly wanted a blaring fan while trying to relax watching movies.</p> <p>Despite the AR04’s fan buzzing away at ridiculously high RPMs, our Silverstone PT12B was still a very relatively cool-running case. When we put our hand on the unit, we couldn’t find a warm spot anywhere on its chassis. The case stayed cool even when we were gaming. Most compact designs tend to get mighty warm under heavy loads.</p> <p>Using our hindsight meter, we decided that if we had to do it again, we’d probably go with an even slower and cheaper LGA1150 chip, such as a Celeron G1820 (just $50). We could also have dropped it down to 4GB of RAM, stripped out the 2TB hard drive, and the ODD, too. At that point, though, we probably could have just bought a cheap Celeron NUC, so maybe we should be happy with what we built.</p> http://www.maximumpc.com/how_to_build_a_home_theater_pc_2015#comments build it Hardware home theater pc how to build htpc July issues 2014 Features Mon, 20 Oct 2014 08:48:14 +0000 Chris Zele 28748 at http://www.maximumpc.com Func HS-260 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/func_hs-260_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Func’s foray into gaming headsets starts on solid footing</h3> <p>Func’s not a new brand, per se—the company has been making gaming peripherals since the turn of the millennium. However, until just over a year ago, it was only known for mousepads, so its recent foray into mice and keyboards represents quite a step up, at least in terms of ambition. Now, with the HS-260, Func is ready to complete the trifecta and take on gaming headsets as well.</p> <p>If the HS-260 is any indication, Func’s got the makings of a gaming peripheral contender. It’s not without its flaws, but as a freshman effort the analog HS-260 is very promising.</p> <p>To begin, the HS-260 is well-constructed. It’s a big set, with circumaural earcups that are large enough to provide plenty of room for even the biggest-eared among us. The plastic band is adjustable and pivots lightly where it meets the earcups, making for a flexible fit. The construction is all plastic, but all the materials feel solid and durable.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100_small.jpg" alt="The HS-260’s audio cable and microphone are both replaceable, and can be plugged in on either side." title="Func HS-260" width="620" height="668" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The HS-260’s audio cable and microphone are both replaceable, and can be plugged in on either side.</strong></p> <p>The design of the HS-260 is quite nice, with muted grays and matte blacks, plus just a hint of chrome to liven things up. The only touch of color in the whole set comes from the orange accents on the braided audio cable. If you prefer your accessories slick and a little on the understated side, this set definitely fits the bill.</p> <p>The HS-260 comes with interchangeable fabric and leatherette earcups, so you can pick whichever finish you prefer. We found both nicely padded and very comfortable. The set feels good overall, though it’s seriously heavy for a wired unit without built-in sound processing or multiple drivers or any of the other features that tend to weight down headsets. The headband is padded, but not by quite enough, and the “clamping” or inward lateral pressure of the headset is a little lower than average, leaving most of the weight bearing right down on the top of your head. All those factors combine to cause a mild headache after a couple hours of wear.</p> <p>This is not a feature-heavy design, but those that are present are nicely implemented. The HS-260 has a single control on the set itself for volume, along with ports for the removable cable and microphone. The audio cable is braided, but lacks an in-line remote, which has become a fairly common feature. There’s no software at all to go with the analog-only HS-260, so you’re pretty much at the mercy of what your sound hardware can output. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to your particular circumstances.</p> <p>Performance-wise, the HS-260 doesn’t do much to stand out from the crowd. Like most gaming headsets, it’s heavy on the bass, though the overall sound is a little lacking in power. We found ourselves needing to turn the volume up higher than usual to get a really immersive sound, and then some static would work its way in. The highs and mids are passable, but indistinct—for music, especially, the HS-260’s balance is a little off.</p> <p>That’s not to say that there’s anything bad about the HS-260’s sound quality—in fact, there’s really nothing bad about the set in general. It’s feature-light, and physically heavy, but it’s a solid headset overall and a surprisingly confident first effort. There’s not too much to make this particular unit stand out from the pack, but we’ll be watching to see what Func comes up with next.</p> <p><strong>$80,</strong> <a href="http://www.func.net/">www.func.net</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/func_hs-260_review#comments Func HS-260 gaming headsets Hardware July issues 2014 Review Headphones Reviews Fri, 17 Oct 2014 09:06:17 +0000 Alex Castle 28737 at http://www.maximumpc.com V3 Components Voltair Reivew http://www.maximumpc.com/v3_components_voltair_reivew <!--paging_filter--><h3>Don’t call it a comeback</h3> <p>If you’re an enthusiast who’s ready to drop more than $100 on a CPU cooler, it’s probably been a long time since you last considered air for this job. Most folks at this level have moved on to closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) or even custom loops. Even the best air-driven jobs on the market won’t match the heat dissipation of a good CLC. So unless you’re on a budget, why bother?</p> <p>Well, the folks at V3 Components think they have the answer. By taking the tower radiator design that’s common with high-performance air coolers and adding a Peltier plate to it, V3 believes there’s life left in air. The Peltier plate has an electrical current passing through it in a way that makes one side cooler than the other, to help lower temperatures beyond that of a standard air cooler. That’s the theory, anyway.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.rev_v3voltair_small_3.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.rev_v3voltair_small_2.jpg" alt="The two fan cables are sleeved and grafted together for a cleaner installation." title="V3 Components Voltair" width="620" height="542" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The two fan cables are sleeved and grafted together for a cleaner installation.</strong></p> <p>Peltier technology also needs a large radiator to handle all the heat it’s throwing off, otherwise it can actually become insulation. Lately, liquid cooling has done this job. With the Voltair, a series of 8mm copper heat pipes tackle that duty. These pipes are in direct contact with the top of the CPU, for maximum heat transfer. This system also requires a particularly large tower radiator, and the Voltair has two fans attached. That’ll take up a lot of real estate. You can remove the fans during installation, but we still had to screw down the radiator from the side, by hand. This meant pulling out our RAM and video card to get clearance, and it was still a little tight getting in there.</p> <p>The fans use 3-pin connectors, and the kit comes with a fan controller that installs in an expansion in the rear of your case. The location of the dial isn’t ideal, and a bit behind the times for a $130 cooler. We’d prefer the 4-pin PWM control that’s become standard. On the bright side, V3 separated the installation parts and widgets into several different baggies, shaving some time and tedium off installation. We wish other vendors would do the same.</p> <p>We’ve dealt with more awkward setups than this, though, and performance is what actually matters at the end of the day. But sadly, we couldn’t get the Voltair to deliver. V3 Components said that the unit should perform on par with a CLC, but we couldn’t get it to best the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo, a standard air cooler that you can snag for around $30. Part of the problem may be the distinct grooves in between each heat pipe, at the section where the pipes touch the top of the CPU. Air pockets can get trapped there if the thermal paste doesn’t spread correctly.</p> <p>V3 Components sent us a replacement unit in case the first one was faulty, and the second one performed slightly worse, hitting 87 C under load when we turned the fans down to about 1,100rpm, triggering a blue-screen error. V3’s own testing with similar hardware indicated that performance should have been in line with a decent CLC, but we just weren’t able to get in their ballpark, despite multiple re-installs, second opinions, and various tweaks. This made us wonder if part of the issue is the design of the nuts V3 uses. They don’t bottom out or limit you during installation, so it’s nigh impossible to know if you’re mounted the cooler perfectly flat. The fine-course threads also mean you’ll be turning forever.</p> <p>The Voltair ended up being one of the most thoroughly tested coolers we’ve reviewed in a while, and the most puzzlingly disappointing. The company says that it’s already looking at creating a smoother contact surface, so hopefully it will fare better next time. Our Intel Core i7-3960X CPU draws up to 165 watts in testing, though, so users of Intel’s 1155/1150 CPUs may have better luck, since those chips use about half the power.</p> <p><strong>$130 (MSRP)</strong>, <a href="http://www.v3components.com/">www.v3components.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/v3_components_voltair_reivew#comments Hardware July issues 2014 maximum pc V3 Components Voltair Reviews Thu, 16 Oct 2014 11:07:05 +0000 TOM MCNAMARA 28727 at http://www.maximumpc.com Silverstone Raven RVZ01 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/silverstone_raven_rvz01_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>This DIY micro-tower takes flight</h3> <p>It’s official: micro-towers are now definitely a “thing.” Unfortunately for DIYers, being able to truly build from scratch hasn’t been an option—until now.</p> <p>Meet Silverstone’s Raven RVZ01, a micro-tower that somewhat resembles a game console but has enough room inside for a high-powered PC. We actually used this enclosure in a recent Build It, and now we’d like to give it a proper review. The short version is that you can pack some powerhouse computing in here, but there are a few caveats.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.rev_silverstone_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.rev_silverstone_small.jpg" alt="An SFX power supply mounts vertically inside the RVZ01." title="Silverstone Raven RVZ01" width="620" height="576" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>An SFX power supply mounts vertically inside the RVZ01.</strong></p> <p>The chief concern with the current wave of micro-towers is how difficult it can be to install a video card. We can settle that one right away: The bracket that holds the card is secured with a few standard Phillips screws. Remove those, lift the bracket out of the case, connect your card to the bracket’s integrated PCI Express connector, attach your PCIe cables, and put the bracket back in. Easy peasy. There’s even a slim 120mm fan preinstalled in that section of the case, to provide intake. Admittedly, this setup works best with a card that has a full “shroud,” where hot exhaust comes directly out the back of the card, instead of getting circulated within the tower. But it’s still an improvement over the usual mini-ITX setup, where the card gets an intake grill and nothing more.</p> <p>The power supply also gets better-than-average treatment in this chassis. You’ll need an SFX power supply instead of ATX, and these smaller units are currently limited to 450 watts. In our Build It, we found that was enough for a GeForce GTX 780 Ti and an Intel Core i7-4770K, but the Silverstone ST45SF-G’s gold rating has a lot to do with that. A more common bronze PSU might not cut it. The space for cabling was also very tight, even when we used a PP05-E flat cable kit (also from Silverstone). And while the PSU has an intake grill on the other side of the case, it exhausts its heat internally, which isn’t ideal. On the other hand, this is not unusual for a micro-tower. On the bright side, the bracket that holds the PSU is easy to access.</p> <p>There is one unavoidable fly in the ointment, though. While the company’s Facebook page featured a closed-loop liquid cooler (CLC) installed in this box, we couldn’t find room for both the radiator and a fan of standard thickness. We had to settle for the Silverstone’s bundled slim fan. Add the absence of air intake in this section of the case, and we were unable to overclock the CPU without running into heat issues. We ended up getting about the same performance as you would from a stock cooler, which undermines the option of putting an unlocked processor in the system—which in turn undermines the option of putting a high-end motherboard in the build.</p> <p>You can still put some nice gear into this case, but a mini-ITX overclocker is better served with a “shoebox” design, such as the Cooler Master Elite 130, or a “cube” design, such as the BitFenix Prodigy. These can take CLCs and ATX power supplies, giving you more options. If you’re not concerned about overclocking and just want something with a small footprint, though, the RVZ01 is really the only game in town right now.</p> <p><strong>$85 (street),</strong> <a href="http://www.silverstonetek.com/">www.silverstonetek.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/silverstone_raven_rvz01_review#comments Hardware July issues 2014 Review Silverstone Raven RVZ01 Reviews Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:44:13 +0000 TOM MCNAMARA 28720 at http://www.maximumpc.com Lian Li PC-V360 Review http://www.maximumpc.com/lian_li_pc-v360_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Brushed-aluminum elegance—for a price</h3> <p>Lian Li comes to the microATX market with a case that looks like a shorter, dieting version of its peers. It’s narrower and more vertically challenged than most microATX cases we’ve checked out, but you’d never guess that by the ample room inside the PC-V360 that the company gives you to play around with.</p> <p>The problem? We don’t really want to.</p> <p>It’s not that the miniature case lacks spirit. Installing a typical microATX motherboard didn’t give us any issues whatsoever, and we especially appreciated the chassis’ built-in motherboard standoffs. Securing up to four new PCIe devices—like our Nvidia GTX 480, which fit comfortably inside the case—was made a smidge more difficult through Lian Li’s use of external screws for its add-in card brackets. However, we forgave this element as it granted us a bit more horizontal space inside the case to work with (you can even remove an included 2.5-inch drive cage if you need more room).</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100_0.jpg" alt="This mATX case is small, yet can pack a CLC." title="Lian Li PC-V360" width="620" height="438" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This mATX case is small, yet can pack a CLC.</strong></p> <p>Pushing in a standard-sized power supply is a tight fit, though. The PSU itself doesn’t brush up against the case’s included top 12cm fan, but there’s a very small amount of room for you to wedge your cables up against the case’s other side panel and the rear of the motherboard tray. We just barely had enough clearance for our 24-pin main power connector, to put that in perspective. Cable management is tricky in this chassis; not impossible, but its limited space definitely requires a bit more thought. The narrow chassis will also limit your air-cooler options.</p> <p>The case’s single 5.25-inch drive bay is pretty standard, in that you’ll be securing your component into the bay using provided thumbscrews. The case’s five 3.5-inch drive bays are split by a single plate that allows you to convert one of these into a 2.5-inch bay (to accompany the three other 2.5-inch bays that come as part of the aforementioned removable drive cage).</p> <p>Installing drives requires you to affix screws and rubber grommets to their sides, which you then slide into the slot and secure into place with a fairly ho-hum “gate” mechanism. We’re not quite convinced of its usefulness versus a rails or tray setup, but the latter two options are certainly more convenient and probably more stable, too.</p> <p>The internal cables for the case’s two USB 3.0 ports and front-mounted 14cm fan are adequate in length, though we would have preferred more length for the case’s front-panel connectors to allow for cleaning wiring runs. Even though this case is tight, you can wedge in a closed-loop cooler on a clever hinged bracket that’s parallel to the CPU. It won’t look pretty, and it might be a cabling/tubing nightmare to contend with, but it’s possible. The CLC bracket (or fans) is one of the most pleasing elements the PC-V360 has to offer, though having more holes and room to mount different-sized fans/radiators would sweeten the deal.</p> <p>Not so pleasing: The fact that the case’s two USB ports are fixed on its right side, toward the front-bottom of the chassis. Put this case under your desk and you’ll be all but touching the floor just to mount a USB cable. The design also limits your ability to, say, place the right side of your system against a wall. It’s a minor quibble, but a more top-and-center USB positioning would be far better for ergonomics. The case also eschews any modern screwless features. In fact, it’s almost the opposite of screwless.</p> <p>While you get the classic “Lian Li” brushed-aluminum elegance, there is a steep price for it: $140. Aluminum will always cost more than steel, but that isn’t our only problem. You’re simply giving up a lot of modern amenities, and while the CLC bracket is clever, we think there are better options out there today.</p> <p><strong>$140, </strong><a href="http://www.lian-li.com/en/">www.lian-li.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/lian_li_pc-v360_review#comments Hardware July issues 2014 Lian Li PC-V360 Reviews Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:29:09 +0000 David Murphy 28719 at http://www.maximumpc.com MSI Radeon R9 280 Gaming 3G Review http://www.maximumpc.com/msi_radeon_r9_280_gaming_3g_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A lot of boom for your buckaroo</h3> <p>AMD has announced an “all new” GPU named the R9 280. This entry will plug the gap between the $230 R7 270X and the $300 R9 280X (these are MSRP prices, btw). It’s priced at $279 and goes head-to-head with Nvidia’s GTX 770, which is priced at $329. Both cards are designed for maximum 1080p, are squarely in the zone of what we would call “good value” as they are somewhat affordable, let you run all games with maximum settings, and handle 1080p with very acceptable frame rates.</p> <p>The reason we stated the R9 280 is a “new” GPU in quotes is that it’s a new SKU for the R9 series, but it’s really just a rebadged HD 7950 Tahiti board. Before you make nasty coughing sounds, keep in mind these second-gen Tahiti boards run much cooler and quieter than they did in their first generation, and with their prices significantly reduced, they are extremely competitive now. This month, we got our hands on the MSI Gaming edition of the card, which features its massive Twin Frozr cooling solution and a healthy overclock from 933MHz on the reference design all the way up to 1,000MHz right out of the box. It features 3GB of GDDR5 RAM just like the HD 7950, and is basically the same GPU except with a higher boost clock. In comparison to the slightly more expensive R9 280X, which is really an HD 7970, the R9 280 has fewer stream processors (1,792 versus 2,048) and slightly slower memory (5GHz versus 6GHz). The card has a 384-bit memory bus and a TDP of 250W, which is slightly higher than the HD 7950 due to the increased clock speeds. It features a Dual-link DVI port, HDMI, and two Mini DisplayPort outputs.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.rev_msinightblade_small_6.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.rev_msinightblade_small_5.jpg" alt="The HD 7950 Boost has been rebooted as the R9 280, now with less noise and a lower price tag." title="MSI Radeon R9 280 Gaming 3G" width="620" height="632" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The HD 7950 Boost has been rebooted as the R9 280, now with less noise and a lower price tag.</strong></p> <p>Since you’ve already seen this particular cooling mechanism many times, and we’ve all seen this card before in two other iterations (the HD 7950 and the R9 280X), let’s get right to a discussion of its performance. There’s a saying we have around the office, which goes, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” Translated into GPU performance, it means when a card costs less than another card, it’s usually slower, and it’s extremely rare for a card to be as fast or faster than a more-expensive competitor. That’s just how it works, and we see it very clearly in the case of the R9 280 from MSI. This card isn’t quite as fast as its GTX 770 arch rival, but then again, it’s about $40 less expensive, too (MSI’s GTX 770 with the same cooler is $340), so it’s a teeny, tiny compromise. It will eventually offer support for Mantle, though, but since this is a Tahiti card, it does not support TrueAudio. Looking at the benchmark chart, we see the GTX 770 holding a clear advantage across the board, especially in Batman, which is an Nvidia title with PhysX, so AMD cards don’t do well with those billowing plumes of smoke. All in all, though, we’d rate the R9 280 as a very playable 1080p card, even with all settings maxed and 4xAA. It’s not 60fps, but it hit at least 30 in every game, so it’s extremely playable in all the latest titles.</p> <p>When it comes to overclocking, we were able to boost it up to 1,084MHz, which is damned good for an AMD card. The sizeable Twin Frozr cooler does an exceptional job of keeping things cool and quiet, too, with the card whispering sweet nothings under load and never getting hotter than 66 C.</p> <p>Overall, this is a sweet card for 1080p gaming at the highest settings. It’s cool and quiet, and it’s priced reasonably. It’s a tough call between it and the GTX 770, boiling down mostly to whether Mantle or ShadowPlay/G-Sync pull at your heart strings.</p> <p><strong>$280</strong>, <a href="http://us.msi.com/">http://us.msi.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/msi_radeon_r9_280_gaming_3g_review#comments Hardware July issues 2014 maximum pc MSI Radeon R9 280 Gaming 3G Reviews Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:16:37 +0000 Josh Norem 28718 at http://www.maximumpc.com MSI NightBlade Review http://www.maximumpc.com/msi_nightblade_review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Bare-bones with a ’tude</h3> <p>Sometimes it’s nice to pick and choose every little component you want in your build, and sometimes it’s just nice to have someone else do the thinking for you.</p> <p>Nowhere is that more true than in the world of small form factor machines. While ATX towers are very forgiving to build into (you can’t pick the wrong PSU or GPU), that can’t be said of ITX PCs.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/mpc100.rev_msinightblade_small_3.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/mpc100.rev_msinightblade_small_2.jpg" alt="You can jam even a Radeon R9 290X in this baby." title="MSI NightBlade" width="620" height="632" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>You can jam even a Radeon R9 290X in this baby.</strong></p> <p>It’s actually fairly easy to make missteps when building an SFF from the ground up, unless you pay very close attention to cable lengths, cooler size, and fan placement. It’s this crowd that MSI’s NightBlade should appeal to the most. It’s an MSI-branded bare-bones box, to which you add storage, an OS, a CPU, and RAM, and you’re good to go.</p> <p>The NightBlade is a typical shoebox “shuttle form factor” that displaces about 16 liters, or 976 cubic inches as we say here in the free lands of ’Merica. That makes it slightly smaller than, say, the Cooler Master Elite 130 chassis. In fact, if you took the Cooler Master Elite 130 and turned it on its side, both would be about the same size and shape.</p> <p>MSI, though, appears to have put some thought into the NightBlade. Since it’s intended primarily as a compact gaming platform, one side of the case is heavily vented and ray-shielded, err, dust-shielded. This is where the big fat GPU is expected to get its air from. MSI says it takes GPUs up to 11.4 inches long and 1.37 inches wide. Basically, it’ll take a Radeon R9 290X without issue. The bottom intake is kept clear with a clever stand-off that does double duty as a carrying handle. The handle is very study, and we had no qualms carrying a built-out NightBlade around the office with it.</p> <p>The mobo inside the NightBlade is an MSI mini-ITX Z87i Gaming AC. The board features a pair of integrated rubber ducky antennas, and the company graciously includes an 802.11ac/Bluetooth 4.0 card. Other amenities include a 600-watt gold-rated PSU, Killer NIC E2200 networking chip, Creative Sound Blaster audio algorithms, and a nifty little SATA adapter cage that lets you install mSATA drives inside of it. The cage is about the size of a standard 2.5-inch SSD and has a standard power connector and two SATA 6Gb/s connectors. You can run the drives individually or in RAID. It’s a good thing you get this, as the NightBlade is limited to 2.5-inch drives and a single 3.5-inch drive. For most people, that’s enough, but we’ve seen designs such as Asrock’s M8 that let you run no fewer than five 2.5-inch drives.</p> <p>In the Kinda Neat department is a front-mounted “OC” button. Pushing the button when the machine is off turns on a subdued glow and, once the machine is booted, overclocks the chip up to 15 percent. On the Intel Core i5-4770K CPU we installed, the chip usually stayed at 3.5GHz with an occasional boost up to 3.9GHz. With the OC button engaged, we saw the NightBlade run at a permanent 4GHz overclock with a core voltage of 1.1 volts—that’s a pretty safe OC for any K-series part. One might argue that the hard button is extraneous, since most overclock and leave it there. Others will say more buttons equal coolness. We went ahead and hit the chip with a Prime95 run for a couple of hours and encountered no instability or offensive acoustics. Noise with a hot GPU, such as the Radeon R9 290, was another matter. Our stock “reference” card would work its fans into a frenzy. MSI does include a plastic bracket that’s labeled “Only for use with the R9 290X,” but we installed a 120mm fan on it to use with our R9 290, and it helped bring down the card whine a little.</p> <p>What the NightBlade really needed, though, was the ability to mount a closed-loop liquid cooler inside. At least in a way that’s apparent to the average builder. We’re sure you could hack one in, but we’d rather it be by design. The plastic fan mount isn’t strong enough to hang a reservoir on, and the rear exhaust fan is an 80mm, so it’s too small for most CLCs. We thought about mounting it directly to the door, but there’s no clear mounting points for a cooler on it, either.</p> <p>The NightBlade has an MSRP of $600, which was initially a turn-off, but on the street, the unit is pushing a reasonable $400. If you took the Cooler Master Elite 130, added the same MSI Z87I Gaming AC board, a 600-watt gold-rated PSU, fans, and a tower cooler, you’d be pushing about $400 at retail. Even the Asrock M8 micro-tower bare-bones machine is pricier at $550—although it does come with a slot-fed optical drive integrated. On the other hand, the NightBlade gives you that nifty mSATA drive adapter. So price-wise, it’s probably a wash. The Asrock M8 also isn’t technically rated to handle high-end GPUs, either.</p> <p>Our only major ding, really, is the inability to mount a closed-loop liquid cooler for the CPU, and even that might be nit-picking. You’ll only need the CLC if you’re doing heavier overclocking than the 4GHz the NightBlade can hit. To be honest, we’d rather see a liquid-cooled GPU in the NightBlade than a liquid-cooled CPU.</p> <p><strong>$400 (street), </strong><a href="http://www.msi.com/index.php">www.msi.com</a></p> http://www.maximumpc.com/msi_nightblade_review#comments Hardware July issues 2014 maximum pc Review Reviews Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:51:10 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28716 at http://www.maximumpc.com