When Asus’s Zenbook UX31E debuted last year, it seemed to almost single-handedly put Ultrabooks on the map. Its intriguing mix of good looks, performance, and price convinced many a skeptic, us included, that PCs could compete with the likes of Apple’s vaunted MacBook Air—at a price that catered to common folk.
The UX32Vd comes with a protective sleeve, as well as a small pouch for carrying two connector dongles: one USB-to-Ethernet, one Mini-VGA-to-VGA.
Fractal Design’s Define R3 chassis, which we reviewed in January 2011, impressed us with its combination of functionality and customizability at a low price. The Define R4 is an updated version of that chassis, and like its predecessor is tricked out for noise control—if not enthusiast building.
The Define R4 isn't much to look at on the outside, but Fractal Design has made some good tweaks to the system's insides to take it above and beyond its predecessor.
Not all midrange motherboards are created the same. Sure, these Z77motherboards all have a black-and-blue color scheme, and they all carry similar street prices, but differences emerge when it comes to features, specs, and performance. Which one should you pair with your new 22nm Ivy Bridge CPU? Glad you asked.
Everything about the Aegis Secure Key telegraphs that Apricorn is serious about the whole data-security thing. The Secure Key has 256-bit AES full hardware encryption, so it doesn’t require software or drivers—it’s completely platform-independent, and it will even work with USB On-the-Go devices like Android tablets. This is a big deal—many drives ship with software encryption clients, but those rarely include software compatibility beyond Mac and Windows.
Enter the wrong PIN 10 times and the Aegis will shred your data to prevent brute-force attacks.
Daring to be different, but falling a little short
The Level 10 GTS is a mid-tower based on a full-tower based on an overdesigned concept chassis, and the form factor has lost something in translation at each step, resulting in a chassis that’s a bit, well, weird.
The Phantom 410 inherits the good looks of its full-tower predecessor but adds some tweaks of its own. It’s a great-looking case in any color (we’ve used white and red for builds), but the gunmetal gray is spectacular. The paint is thick and luxurious to the touch, enough to give the Phantom 410 a much better feel than the MSI Ravager, which uses similar chassis tooling. Like the full-tower Phantom, the 410 has plastic shrouds on the top and front panels, which increase the size of the case (and make it impossible to rest anything on top). The top shroud contains two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, audio jacks, and a three-speed fan controller—as well as the seven fan-control cables that lead from it.
Corsair’s Obsidian 550D comes packed with sound-dampening acoustical foam (nearly half an inch on its side panel), but it’s not just Corsair’s dedication to quiet that has us wowed. It’s the 550D’s interactivity: Gaining access to most of the steel case’s fan mounts (two 12cm mounts on the top, two preinstalled 12cm fans on the front, and two 12cm fan mounts on the case’s side) only requires you to push on a panel. Out it pops and in you go. The case’s side panels receive a similar treatment: Just hit a button on the rear of the case and bam—you can take them right off.
The MSI Ravager looks like it was extruded from Monster Energy cans. Its exterior is black-painted SECC steel with bright blue claw-mark decals, and the inside is black with the mobo tray, drive trays, slot covers, and optical bay mechanisms picked out in bright blue.
Call us suckers for military theming, but Corsair’s Vengeance C70 is a beautiful steel case that’s every bit as functional as it is fun to look at. The system sports a hefty arsenal: no fewer than six screwless hard drive trays and three screwless 5.25-inch bays in addition to one 12cm fan in the case’s rear and two directly to the left of the system’s hard drive bays. You can add two additional 12cm fans to the system’s front and two on top— arranged perfectly for a 240mm water-cooling radiator, if that’s your calling.