Systems en Maingear Epic Force Video Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>See what a $12,000 gaming rig looks like</h3> <p>One of the best parts of this job is getting to play with hardware we can’t afford. For this video, Gordon walks you through Maingear’s Epic Force which is a tour de force of beautiful plumbing even Mario would be proud of. The machine, delivered to us before Intel’s epic Core i7-5960X “<a title="haswell e" href="" target="_blank">Haswell-E</a>” is built on an overclocked Core i7-4790K “Devil’s Canyon” chip and packs a pair of water cooled Radeon R9 295 X2 graphics cards.</p> <p><iframe src="//" width="620" height="349" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p>What do you think of the Maingear Epic Force PC? Let us know in the comments below.</p> big chassis Desktop Hardware maingear epic force maximum pc MPCTV pc Review video Reviews Systems Mon, 08 Sep 2014 21:05:28 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28498 at Intel NUC D54250WYKH Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>You can stuff 3TB of storage into this baby</h3> <p>Intel’s cool Next Unit of Computing (NUC) PCs have one serious limitation compared to say an All-In-One PC: storage. With room for just a single mSATA drive, NUC storage was limited to about 1TB. That’s no longer the case, though, thanks to the NUC D54250WYKH, which accepts 2.5-inch drives in addition to mSATA devices.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/intel_nuc_d54250wykh_small_0.png"><img src="/files/u152332/intel_nuc_d54250wykh_small.png" alt="We were sorely tempted to ding the D54250WYKH a point for its boring, annoying name." title="Intel NUC D54250WYKH" width="620" height="612" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>We were sorely tempted to ding the D54250WYKH a point for its boring, annoying name.</strong></p> <p>Yup, if you enjoy memorizing Intel SKU numbers to impress people at cocktail parties, you’ll recognize that the NUC D54250WYKH is just one letter different from sibling, the NUC D54250WYK, which we reviewed in our March Ultra Compact SFF roundup. Besides the extra H, the obvious difference is the increased height of this NUC. The unit is about half an inch taller but retains the standard 4.5-inch by 4.5-inch width and depth of all NUCs. The increased depth is to accommodate the installation of a 2.5-inch SATA drive. You may scoff at the notion of a 2.5-inch tray having an impact on a system’s storage, but the alternative is the single mSATA slot, which is far more limited. There’s enough room inside to stuff a standard 9.5mm SSD or HDD, and while you won’t get a 4TB hard drive inside, you can get Seagate’s 2TB 9mm Spinpoint M9T to fit. Even better, you can use the M9T for bulk storage and still run your OS from an mSATA drive. The 2.5-inch tray also gives budget-minded builders the option to run much cheaper 2.5-inch SSDs instead of pricey mSATA drives.</p> <p>Inside, you’ll find an mSATA slot, a mini PCIe slot for wireless, and a pair of low-voltage DDR3 SO-DIMM slots. The NUC supports RAM speeds up to DDR3/1600, and Intel means it. We tried to push it further with a pair of low-voltage 8GB G.Skill DDR3/1866, but got occasional bluescreens, so it looks like this NUC is stuck at DDR3/1600. That’s unfortunate, because a little more memory bandwidth would certainly help the graphics performance.</p> <p>Speaking of performance, we feel pretty good scoring the performance of this NUC, now that we’ve had half a dozen of these pint-sized PCs through the lab. Our zero-point is the older Ivy Bridge–based NUC. That unit runs a 1.8GHz Core i3-3217U with HD4000 graphics, so it’s a dual-core part with Hyper-Threading but no Turbo Boost. The new “fat NUC,” as we call it, easily slams the older Ivy Bridge unit by a significant margin, thanks to its Turbo Boost and newer Haswell cores. Interestingly, we expected the performance of this NUC to be the same as the NUC D54250WYK we reviewed last month since both units use the same motherboard and CPU. All Intel really did was add the 2.5-inch drive tray and increase the size of the unit, but otherwise they are the same. While both perform about the same in most of the benchmarks, the taller NUC had the edge in gaming. Why? We suspect driver updates after we originally ran our tests. In practical gaming, you shouldn’t have high expectations. The 10-year-old Counter Strike: Source is very playable at greater than 60 fps at 1080p, and Counter Strike: GO ran well, too. We also ran Minecraft at about 40–50 fps (although the game can scale up with high-res textures). In CPU-intensive chores, though, the Fat NUC fares well. It’s certainly not in the same league as Gigabyte’s Kick Ass Brix Pro, but for most things people will do with a NUC, it’s more than enough and actually quieter than the Brix Pro, too. At the end of the day, it is still just a dual-core part.</p> <p>We like this new NUC as much as we liked the Intel NUC D54250WYK, being as they’re, well, almost the same. There is a cost premium for the thicker unit, but for someone who intends to store a lot of files or use it as an HTPC box, it’s well worth it.</p> <p><strong>$460;</strong> <a href=""></a></p> cpu d54250wykh Hardware Intel NUC review May issues 2014 pocket portable pc raspberry pi small tiny Reviews Systems Thu, 28 Aug 2014 14:50:22 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28434 at Xidax M6 Mining Rig Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A gaming rig that pays for itself</h3> <p>Exotic car paint, multiple GPUs, and custom-built chassis’ be damned, boutique PC builder <a title="xidax" href="" target="_blank">Xidax</a> thinks it has the sexiest sales pitch on the planet with its <strong>M6 Mining Rig</strong>: It pays for itself! Now, we can’t say this PC is basically “free” because it ain’t that, but Xidax says by using the box’s spare GPU cycles to mine for crypto-currency, this baby would be paid off in about four months. To be honest, it’s not something we’ve ever considered, as we’ve seen gaming rigs, and we’ve seen coining rigs, but never in the same box. It seems like a solid idea though, as the system can game during the day, then mine at night to help cover its cost.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/xidax_guts13979_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/xidax_guts13979_small.jpg" alt="The Xidax M6 Mining Rig comes set up with everything you need to start mining crypto-currancy almost right out of the box." title="Xidax M6 Mining Rig" width="620" height="676" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Xidax M6 Mining Rig comes set up with everything you need to start mining crypto-currancy almost right out of the box.</strong></p> <p>The system’s specs include a 3.4GHz Core i5-4670K with 16GB of RAM, a Corsair RM 850 PSU, closed-loop liquid cooler, 250GB Samsung 840 EVO SSD, 1TB WD Black, and a pair of Sapphire Radeon R9 290X cards. In application performance, it’s pretty pedestrian with its stock-clocked Core i5-4670K. Why not something more badass? Xidax says it weighed hardware choices carefully because the pricier the hardware, the longer it takes to pay off with crypto-coins. The Radeons are a wise choice, as they offer about twice the performance of Nvidia’s fastest GPUs in mining applications. Gaming is also quite excellent (obviously, for a two-card system), and its mining performance is impressive at 1.7 to 1.8 Kilohashes per second. (Hashes of the kilo/mega/giga variety are the units of measurement for mining productivity.)</p> <p>Xidax ships the PC ready to start mining operations almost right out of the box, which is normally a daunting task. It also includes a Concierge (or should we say coincierge) service that has a Xidax rep remotely connect to the rig and do a final tune on the box for maximum mining performance. On this particular machine, it came ready to mine for Doge Coins and was forecast to make about $21.60 a day, or $670 a month, on a 24/7 schedule—including electricity costs.</p> <p>What’s the catch? There are a few. First, it’s loud when mining. In fact, it’s so loud that you won’t be able to stand being in the same room with it. Second, you can’t do anything with it while it’s mining because all GPU resources are pegged to the max. Third, crypto-currency can be volatile. Bitcoin saw its value see-saw from $130 to $1,242 and then back to $455 and $900 in just four months. It could all go kaput in a few months, or who knows—the government might even step in and ruin the fun.</p> <p>Considering its performance outside of mining, the M6 Mining Rig is pricey at $3,000. However, the price includes a lifetime warranty on parts and service except for the GPUs. Those carry a five-year warranty, which is still surprisingly good, considering that board vendors are already making noises that they don’t want to eat the cost of dead boards killed by mining. Xidax says it will cover them, though. And—again—it pays for itself, right?</p> <p>That’s ultimately the appeal of the M6 Gaming Rig, but it has to be carefully considered by potential buyers. After all, anything that sounds too good to be true usually is, but then again, it is a powerful gaming PC that could theoretically pay for itself in a few months. And even if the market blew up, at least you’d still have a formidable gaming PC rather than just standing there with your RAM sticks in one hand. And if it works out, whoa baby, you just got a PC for free! –</p> <p><strong>$3,000,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><img src="/files/u154082/xidax_benchmarks.png" alt="xidax benchmarks" title="xidax benchmarks" width="620" height="277" /></p> april issues 2014 bitcoin dogecoin Hardware maximum pc Review xidax m6 mining computer Reviews Systems Wed, 06 Aug 2014 16:42:51 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28234 at AVADirect Mini Cube Gaming PC Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Just call it ‘The Fridge’</h3> <p>Naming a PC isn’t an easy task. It’s hard enough when you’re talking about your personal PC (Betsy, Svetlana, or Jabba work well), but when you’re a company selling a new model, Marketing 101 says the name should imbue magic and convince consumers to pony up.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/ava_13708_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/ava_13708_small.jpg" alt="Though capable and reasonably priced, this medium form factor is eclipsed by smaller, faster, and cheaper machines." title="AVADirect Mini Cube Gaming PC" width="620" height="582" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Though capable and reasonably priced, this medium form factor is eclipsed by smaller, faster, and cheaper machines.</strong></p> <p>We’re guessing AVADirect didn’t take that class, as its new custom mini-cube gaming PC is apparently named Mini Cube Gaming PC. The truth is, AVADirect probably doesn’t give a damn about the name because frankly, who cares? Maybe “5S” or “S IV” works on some people, but on a custom PC where you pick out the parts yourself, it’s probably far less pressing.</p> <p>Around the office, we’ve taken to calling this handsome SFF machine “The Fridge,” not necessarily because of its size, but because of its Frigidaire-like aesthetic. Sure, it would have been cool if the optical drive shared the same brushed-aluminum surface, but it still matches the black accents elsewhere on the case. While there’s no question that this is a small form factor rig, compared to the micro-towers we’ve seen lately, it’s pretty big. It’s more than double the width of the Falcon Northwest Tiki, and while slightly shorter than the CyberPower Hadron we reviewed in February, it’s about three inches wider than that machine.</p> <p>That size increase gives it more capability. While most micro-towers use SFX or 1U PSUs, The Fridge uses a standard 760W Seasonic ATX PSU. Inside, you’ll also find a liquid-cooled Core i7-4770K overclocked to 4.2GHz, 16GB of Kingston DDR3/1600, two Kingston 120GB HyperX SSDs in RAID 0, a 2TB WD HDD, an MSI Z87 Mini-ITX board, and an Asus GeForce GTX 780 card.</p> <p>Against our zero-point system, the AVADirect represents well in the non-heavily multithreaded tasks but, not surprisingly, it gets left behind in all other tests by the ZP’s six-core Core i7-3930K part clicking along at 3.8GHz. That includes gaming tests, but not by the margin you would expect from the zero-point’s GeForce GTX 690.</p> <p>The more important question is how The Fridge compares with the SFF/micro-tower crowd. Not too shabby. The bad mutha of the group continues to be Falcon Northwest’s Tiki, with its Haswell part overclocked to 4.7GHz and a GeForce Titan. Indeed, the Tiki still stands as the fastest micro-tower we’ve ever tested, and the fact that it’s held onto that title well into the new year demonstrates how aggressively Falcon went for broke with this model. Of course, that aggression comes at a price, with the Tiki hitting the $4,400 mark. At $2,583, AVADirect can pull the old, “You can buy our system, play all of your games, and still have enough money to buy two of the upcoming cheap 4K panels” routine.</p> <p>Normally, that routine would sway us, because like most folks, we can see sacrificing a little performance for a new monitor, keyboard, mouse, and new suit and shoes, too. But then there’s CyberPower PC’s Hadron Hydro 300, which costs $300 less than the AVADirect. It almost mirrors the parts in the AVADirect except for the HDD. The Hadron also packs custom liquid-cooling for its CPU and GPU, which, while the chassis gets a tad warm, helps the rig run extremely quietly and gives it a slight performance edge. The AVADirect box is louder and under heavy loads emits a low-frequency large-fan buzz.</p> <p>That leaves the AVADirect in a tough spot. It’s slower than the Tiki and more expensive than the Hadron. Yes, it’s got an off-the-shelf PSU, but we’re not sure that’s worth the sacrifice in size. Yes, it’s a striking-looking case with its brushed-steel/aluminum finish, but maybe the sun is just finally starting to set on the medium form factor.</p> <p><strong>$2,584,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><em>Note: This article was originally featured in our March issue of the magazine.</em></p> AVADirect Mini Cube Hardware March issues 2014 maximum pc Reviews Systems Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:11:59 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 28059 at CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>The birth of a new form factor</h3> <p>Form factors are never easy to define. For example, where’s the line between a mid-tower and a full-tower? And how do you define small form factor?</p> <p>Amid all this confusion, we thought we had at least defined what a micro-tower is: a thin and powerful PC with discrete graphics, such as the Falcon Northwest Tiki or Digital Storm Bolt. Easy, right?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/cyberpower_micro-12994_small2_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/cyberpower_micro-12994_small2.jpg" alt="Maybe we should call this a macro-tower?" title="CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300" width="620" height="757" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Maybe we should call this a macro-tower?</strong></p> <p>Wrong. CyberPower bends the definition with its new Hadron Hydro 300. At first glance, it looks like a micro-tower, but upon closer examination, you think, no, it’s not quite a micro-tower because it’s too wide, right? The box certainly isn’t as big as, say, the micro-ATX-based V3 Devastator that we reviewed in our Holiday 2013 issue. So, just what the frak is it? Maybe, as Senior Editor Josh Norem suggested, it’s a “macro-tower”—the bigger cousin to a micro-tower.</p> <p>There’s indeed an advantage to the just-a-bit-wider-than-a-micro-tower form factor. Every micro-tower we’ve seen is limited to air cooling or closed-loop cooling of the CPU only. The GPU, arguably the hottest part in the case, has to go it on air cooling alone. With the slightly wider Hadron, CyberPower is able to add a slick, miniaturized custom-cooling loop that keeps both the CPU and GPU cool. The rad isn’t some small jobbie, either, but a full-on dual-fan radiator mounted in the top. To make full use of the space, the system actually snakes liquid out through the back of the case and into the top using a very trick-looking set of chrome hard tubes. The fans are mounted under the rad in a push configuration, which vents hot air out the grill top.</p> <p>A full-on custom-cooling loop solves another issue we’ve see in micro-towers: noise. When enough hardware is pushed to the max in a micro-tower, it gets loud. The fastest micro-tower we’ve ever tested is Falcon’s Tiki, which we reviewed in our November issue. That box pushed the acoustic envelope, although its Haswell was also overclocked to an insane 4.7GHz.</p> <p>The Core i7-4770K in the CyberPower Hadron seems conservative at 4.2GHz, but the custom loop also absorbs the thermals from an EVGA Hydro Copper 2 GTX 780 card. Even under the heaviest loads, the system never got terribly loud. It’s not silent by a long shot, but it’s certainly quieter than most micro-towers when pushed hard.</p> <p>In performance, the Hadron represents well against the micro-towers we’ve tested. On the CPU side, it’s tied with or faster than all but the Falcon Northwest Tiki from our November 2013 roundup. Its liquid-cooled and overclocked GTX 780 outpaces or ties the micro-towers’ GPUs, as well. The Hadron also outruns the V3 Devastator we reviewed in our Holiday 2013 issue in all CPU-related tasks, but loses badly against the V3’s SLI’d GeForce GTX 770s. There’s just no way a single GeForce GTX 780 can manhandle SLI cards. That’s also why the CyberPower Hadron gets lumped up by our zero-point’s GeForce GTX 690 and its hexa-core processor.</p> <p>In the price-to-performance calculator, the CyberPower Hadron does OK, coming in at $2,300. Its closest competitor is the iBuypower Revolt from our November 2013 roundup, which cost $2,000—with a GeForce Titan. The V3 Devastator also offers a nice package at $2,500, although that box is definitely bigger and only gives you a Core i5 part.</p> <p>We should give the CyberPower Hadron its due respect, though—we’ve come to expect small boxes to run on air or off-the-shelf liquid coolers and that’s just not true anymore. This is a sexy little number.</p> <p><strong>$2,260,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> <p><span style="font-style: italic;">Note: This review was originally featured in the February 2014 issue of the</span><a style="font-style: italic;" title="maximum pc mag" href=";cds_mag_code=MAX&amp;id=1366314265949&amp;lsid=31081444255021801&amp;vid=1&amp;cds_response_key=IHTH31ANN" target="_blank">magazine</a><span style="font-style: italic;">.</span></p> CyberPower Hadron Hydro 300 Hardware maximum pc microtower Review Small Form Factor Reviews Systems Thu, 24 Jul 2014 20:46:50 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27836 at How to Build a Fish Tank PC <!--paging_filter--><h3>Operation Mineral-Oil Submersion</h3> <p>Lately, we've been tossing around the idea of doing a Build It story that uses a custom liquid-cooling loop just because they are fun to play with, and when properly designed, have many tangible performance benefits. But since this is Maximum PC, we asked ourselves, “Why not take it one step further and submerge everything in liquid?” After all, what could possibly go wrong?</p> <p><a class="thickbox" style="text-align: center;" href="/files/u152332/build_it_fish_tank_jimmy_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/build_it_fish_tank_jimmy_small.jpg" width="620" height="574" /></a></p> <p>You've probably seen aquarium-style case mods like this before, but this time we're taking advantage of a pre-fabbed kit from <a title="puget system" href="" target="_blank">Puget Systems</a>. It incorporates items that will be familiar to liquid-cooling aficionados, such as a Swiftech pump, compression fittings, and a 240mm radiator. However, what’s different is that this kit combines familiar bits with more exotic items, like an acrylic frame/container, an integrated temperature gauge, and the star of the show—several gallons of mineral oil.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><iframe src="//" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>Click play on the video above to see how we finalized the fish tank PC.</strong></p> <p>Water would kill everything it touches, but mineral oil doesn't conduct electricity and is nonreactive—you can dunk a running power supply into a bucket of the stuff and it will keep running. We’ll walk you through the build, detail our mistakes, and show you how it all works. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it certainly makes a great conversation piece.</p> <h4>Exploratory Drilling</h4> <p>This actually isn't the biggest mineral-oil system Puget offers, as the one we used is designed for microATX motherboards ($445, <a href=""></a>. There’s a bigger kit that allows an E-ATX board ($690), but we like the fact that this kit requires "only" eight gallons of oil. A single one-gallon jug of the stuff weighs 7.3 pounds, so even this little build will be pushing more than 50 pounds once we’re up and running. As you can imagine, this makes the system quite difficult to move around safely. Since our needs included being able to move the system to the photography studio, shuffle it to different ambient temperature ranges for thermal testing, and dangle it over a misbehaving intern's head, we opted for Puget's more manageable mATX option.</p> <p>Puget does not sell mineral oil directly, but the company is affiliated with STE Oil, which sold us the eight gallons for $160, plus another $180 for three-day shipping (what can we say, we’re not the best planners). UPS Ground would have still cost $52, since shipping fees scale according to weight, and shipping 58.4 pounds of anything isn’t cheap. So, we recommend you get it locally to save yourself some cheddar.</p> <p>Since this is the first time we've attempted a mineral-oil submersion Build It, we're being conservative with our hardware. We’d rather not destroy expensive gear, and almost all of it is on loan from vendors anyway, so it’s not even ours to destroy. Since our build is mediocre, we won't be testing for performance, but instead just seeing how it all fits together, what pitfalls exist, and reporting on temps and whether or not we’d ever do it again. We also hope to produce a PC that looks seriously cool.</p> <h4>1. The Kit and Kaboodle</h4> <p>Puget’s microATX kit is made of custom-shaped Plexiglas machined in small batches. It also includes some premium parts, such as a $57 240mm Swiftech radiator, a $100 Swiftech MCP35X pump, several nickel-plated compression fittings, pre-cut tubing, and a thermometer with an LCD readout. Storage devices are mounted on the outside of the thing in order to keep them dry, and the kit includes extension cables and brackets to accommodate that setup. The included documentation is meticulous, and the bags of screws are even color-coded to avoid confusion. The radiator does not come with fans, but you can buy a pack from Puget or bring your own. We chose the latter, pulling some Scythe Gentle Typhoons from our basket of Dream Machine parts.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_a_small_4.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_a_small_3.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="314" /></a></p> <h4>2. Making a Case</h4> <p>When you see all the separate components of the case laid out, it looks like it would take days to assemble. In practice, however, the interior rack that holds all the components comes together like Lego pieces, except with screws. The instruction manual has very clear diagrams for every step, leaving little question about what to do next. The case itself is one piece, and the parts you assemble end up with a pair of handles, so when it's all finished, you can carry the assembly via the handles and lift it in and out of the case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_21.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_20.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><strong>Click the next page to read about installing the graphics card in the system and more.</strong></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>3. Getting Graphic</h4> <p>Since we intended to test how well mineral oil can dissipate heat compared to air or conventional liquid-cooling systems, we wanted to use some reasonably hot hardware to put the system to the test, and we had exactly that with the triple-slot Asus Radeon HD 7970 DirectCU II GPU. It's as hot as it is huge, measuring 2.25 inches thick and 11 inches long, but Puget's case had no trouble accommodating its length. This GPU gets so hot Asus had to stick a condo-size cooler on it, so we wondered if the oil would be able to handle all the heat this card gives off.</p> <p>It should, because, in theory, even though the fans will spin more slowly since oil is more viscous than air, the lack of fan movement shouldn’t matter since the oil is sucking up the heat given off by the card, and the fans don’t play a major role in the cooling loop. Once the oil gets warm, it’s pulled out of the case by the pump and sent to the external radiator.</p> <p>The only thing we didn’t like about the GPU setup is that it’s across from where the PSU is mounted, so we had to drape the cables through the acrylic case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_15.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>4. Pumping Up the Volume</h4> <p>The Swiftech MCP35X pump included with this kit is not the standard unit that we used in this year’s Dream Machine. It's PWM-controlled, so it can adjust its speeds dynamically according to instructions given by the motherboard that it's plugged into. When the system is idle, the pump operates very quietly. When needed, it can crank up to 4,500rpm, so it's very powerful for its size (and you'll need that extra horsepower to offset the thickness of mineral oil). It also takes standard G1/4 fittings and can directly integrate specific reservoirs, which saves on space. At $100 when purchased separately, it's one of the more expensive pumps you'll find. But our oil-based setup benefits from a pump that has premium features.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_20.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_19.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>5. Taking a Dip</h4> <p>Our oil came in one five-gallon jug and three one-gallon jugs. The big jug needed a pipe wrench to get the cap off, and it did not have a built-in tube like a gas can. So there was some spillage there. Mineral oil has the clarity and consistency of corn syrup. It also has no odor, thankfully. We began by emptying the large jug into the tank, which filled a little more than half its capacity. Then we inserted our rack of parts, and topped off the tank with one of the gallon jugs of oil. We ended up needing just six gallons since the rest of the container's capacity was displaced by the hardware and the pebbles. It got pretty heavy after everything was poured in, but there are silicone feet underneath the aquarium, so you can at least get your hands underneath to lift it.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_15.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <p>The instruction manual recommends using bubble bars to simulate an aquarium, which requires a second set of pumps, valves, and tubing. We thought that was just a bit too complicated for our first time with mineral oil. But rocks and other typical fishy decorations are an easy add, as long as it's all clean. Any dust will cloud the oil and potentially clog the circulation system, or at least reduce its effectiveness.</p> <h4>6. The Heat of Battle</h4> <p>The pump is just one part of the oil circulation system, of course. The Swiftech MCRx20-XP radiator uses brass tubes and copper fins, and a self-purging plenum, which is a chamber that helps maintain equal pressure throughout the loop and can suppress noise. The radiator is hung outside the case on a bracket. It's big enough to fit three fans if you wanted to; one up top and two down below. But the bracket is a bit too bulky to fit four fans, thus eliminating the possibility of a full “push-pull” configuration. The Scythe fans are 120mm units that spin at a fixed 1,850rpm, but they're surprisingly quiet and good at forcing air through a radiator. The fan cables aren't braided, so they're not very pretty. We also needed to add a power distribution block because the motherboard has just one case fan header, and we wanted to minimize the number of cables leading out of the case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/d_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_15.jpg" title="Image F" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/main_image_small1_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/main_image_small1.jpg" title="Main Image" width="620" height="495" /></a></p> <h3>Striking Oil</h3> <p>Trying something truly novel in Build It is exciting, but that excitement was tempered by several “oh, crap” moments and hardware failures. For example, it wasn't until all the hardware was dipped into the oil for the first time that we realized we probably should have made sure it at least booted first. Luck was not on our side, and on our first try the machine would not POST. We hoped the issue was related to the monitor, or the monitor cable, or some small thing, but no combination of parts outside the machine had any impact. We did have some luck, in that there was a plastic tub available in the Lab that was large enough to place the oil-soaked rack in temporarily. So we hauled it out and proceeded to methodically replace one part at a time until we got the machine to boot. The problem appeared to be a motherboard fried at some earlier point by static, or physically damaged in a way that's difficult to detect with the naked eye. Once we swapped the board, the system booted right up and remained stable.</p> <p>The pump was initially a little noisy as it filled up and started circulating oil through the radiator, but the overall acoustics eventually settled down to a gentle whir, even when spinning at a reasonably high 4,500rpm. The loudest element was actually the oil pouring back into the case from the radiator, which was like a pleasantly babbling brook.</p> <p>Overall temps seemed fine, so we ran FurMark's thermal test for a little while to get some heat into the oil, and the case temperature eventually leveled off at 37 degrees Celsius, comfortably below its rated maximum of 50 C. The Asus HD 7970 stayed around 60 C, though we did have to manually increase fan speed to compensate for the thickness of mineral oil. We found that temps are highly dependent on the fans you use on the radiator; random $5 case fans won't get the kind of result that you will get with $20 Gentle Typhoons (or Corsair SP120s, or Noctua CPU fans), because the higher-end units have a combination of high pressure, high durability, and relatively low noise. We didn't try overclocking the AMD chip, since it was using a stock cooler, and Puget warns against overclocking systems in the oil due to heat concerns.</p> <p>The radiator fan wires were not long enough to reach the motherboard headers, so we used a power distribution block, which is like a power strip for case fans. You can power them up with Molex, SATA, or PCI Express power cables. The Gentle Typhoons we used spin at a constant RPM, but the noise is low enough that we don’t need variable speed PWM control.</p> <p>Aside from human error, the system itself was a great success. People around the office who aren't even into computers stopped to admire our aquarium PC, with its bubbling liquid and eerie blue glow (provided by a 30cm BitFenix Alchemy Connect LED Strip). It’s obviously not for everyone, but if you’re looking for a fun DIY project that’s "different," it doesn’t get much better than this.</p> fish tank pc how to build January issues 2014 maximum pc mineral oil pc pudget systems water Systems Features How-Tos Mon, 07 Apr 2014 21:05:07 +0000 Tom McNamara 27535 at Build A Budget Haswell PC <!--paging_filter--><h3>We all know AMD makes damned-fine budget parts, but can Intel compete? This month, we build a $650 Core i5 Haswell rig to find out how it stacks up</h3> <p>It seems like whenever we build a high-end system it’s powered by an Intel CPU, and budget systems always run AMD parts. This month, we’re flipping the script and building a budget-oriented Intel system to see how it compares to AMD’s offerings, and to give people a glimpse of what a $650 Intel rig can throw down. For comparison’s sake, we recently built budget rigs using AMD’s new <a title="richland apu" href="" target="_blank">Richland APU</a> (October 2013) as well as one with a $120 Vishera FX-6300 CPU (“<a title="cheap PC" href="" target="_blank">Battle of the Budget Builds</a>,” June 2013), and found that both chips serve their niche quite well. For this Intel build, we knew we’d go with <a title="haswell" href="" target="_blank">Haswell</a>, and wanted to run a Core i3 CPU, which typically comes with two cores and Hyper-Threading (HT), but those haven’t been released yet. <em><strong>Note:</strong> This article was originally featured in our December 2013 issue of the magazine.</em> So, the next-best CPU we could get was the Core i5-4430— a quad-core CPU without HT for $180. That's a third of our budget on the CPU, which forced us to be frugal elsewhere. We also took this opportunity to try out a new microATX case from Cooler Master that retails for $50, which we felt was perfect for a budget build.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_13.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/beauty_shot_small_12.jpg" width="620" height="720" /></a></p> <h3>Gathering Intel</h3> <p>Since we’re working on a tight budget, we planned this system to be relatively bare-bones, thus allowing us to build inside the smallish Cooler Master N200 microATX chassis. This is a chassis that’s smaller than a traditional mid-tower, but larger than a traditional small-form-factor case, with plenty of room for cables and extra-long GPUs. The foundation for our build would be a motherboard from Gigabyte, the GA-B85-D3H (not to be confused with the HD3). It has a fat heatsink on the parts that usually get pretty hot, so we figured the board would be relatively stable. Other than that, it is a budget B85 board, with four SATA 6Gb/s ports, Realtek integrated sound, one PCI Express 3.0 slot, and four RAM slots that can handle up to 32GB clocked at 1,600MHz. It also features Gigabyte's DualBIOS feature, so the motherboard can use the backup BIOS if the primary one fails to boot. The Core i5-4430 isn’t overclockable, so we won’t be messing with any of that. Although the Core i5-4430 is about $30 more expensive than the A10-6800K that we tried in the AMD budget build, that CPU also wore a Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo cooler, which comes out to… about $30. So it's the same difference in the end, though CPU and integrated graphics performance will differ.</p> <p>Other than that, we're trying to keep the rest of the system similar to the Richland build, to create a level playing field, so you'll see the same 60GB SSD, Corsair power supply, 1TB hard drive, Windows 8, and an optical drive.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">INGREDIENTS</span></strong></div> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light">PART</th> <th>Price</th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Case</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Cooler Master N200</td> <td> <p><strong>$50</strong></p> </td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>PSU</strong></td> <td>Corsair CX500</td> <td><strong>$50</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>Mobo</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Gigabyte GA-B85-D3H </td> <td><strong>$85</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>CPU</strong></td> <td>Intel Core i5-4430</td> <td><strong>$180 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Cooler</strong></td> <td>Intel stock cooler </td> <td><strong>N/A (bundled)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>GPU</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">Intel HD 4600</td> <td><strong>N/A (integrated)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item"><strong>RAM</strong></td> <td class="item-dark">2x 4GB Corsair Vengeance LP</td> <td><strong>$60 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>SSD</strong></td> <td>60GB Mushkin Chronos MKNSSDCR60GB-7 </td> <td><strong>$65 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>HDD</strong></td> <td>1TB Seagate Barracuda</td> <td><strong>$68 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Optical Drive</strong></td> <td>Samsung SH-S223</td> <td><strong>$15 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>OS</strong></td> <td>Windows 8 64-bit OEM</td> <td><strong>$90 (street)</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td><strong>Total</strong></td> <td>&nbsp;</td> <td><strong>$663</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> <h4>1. Stating Your Case</h4> <p>The N200 case is about 7.5 inches wide, so cable management quickly becomes an issue as soon as you begin inserting parts. As we began building, the first area of trouble we ran into was with the hard drive cage on the bottom of the chassis, which holds two 3.5-inch drives and one SSD. If we were to use the standard screw holes for the hard drive, it would have given us very little clearance to connect the SATA and power cables on the other side. So we moved the HDD forward by one hole, which gave us some extra space in the back, making it easier to store unused power supply cables out of sight. It’s a shame the hard drive cage doesn’t have rails, as installing drives is a PITA.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/a_small_15.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/a_small_14.jpg" title="Image A" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>2. Getting Cagey</h4> <p>In order to install hard drives into the included cage, you need to attach screws to both sides of it, but there’s no way to access the cage's left side with it inside the system, so you have to remove it altogether first. To do that you need to remove two screws that secure it to the motherboard tray, then flip the case on its side to access four more screws underneath the case (pictured). With those removed, you can pull out the cage and access the holes on its left side.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/b_small_12.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/b_small_11.jpg" title="Image B" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p>There are also four built-in SSD installation points—one on top of the lower HDD cage, two on the mobo tray, and one beneath the upper 3.5-inch drive bay—but we used an adapter bracket to install our lone SSD in the 3.5-inch cage. Call us old-fashioned, but we felt it offered the cleanest wiring options. The upper 3.5-inch drive bay also holds a single drive, so despite the N200 being "only" an mATX case, you have plenty of options when it comes to storage.</p> <h4>3. Intercepting Cables</h4> <p>A modular power supply probably would have been easier to use in such a small case, but we used the same PSU from our Richland build, so we had no choice but to find room for all the cables. The side panels each have a bulge to them, but they’re not deep enough to squeeze a 24-pin power cable behind the motherboard tray. There’s also no cutout for the 8-pin power cable, so we had to route it over the motherboard like in the old days. Since there's no window on this case, we didn't feel too pressured to make the inside look pretty, but we did break out the twist ties in a few places.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_15.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/c_small_14.jpg" title="Image C" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: left;"><em>Click the next page to continue.&nbsp;</em></p> <hr /> <p>&nbsp;</p> <h4>4. Laser Visions</h4> <p>Optical drives are still the easiest way to install Windows, so we’ll continue to use them until we’re pulling an OS from the cloud. Plus, some motherboards don't play nice when you try to boot from a USB stick, especially if it's a USB 3.0 device. To install an optical drive with this case, you need to remove the front bezel via a hidden handle at the bottom that pulls outward. Once it comes off, you squeeze two tabs on the drive bay cover to remove it. You can see from the photo that the entire front of the case is just one big mesh grill. It holds two 120mm fans, or a 240mm radiator on the inside of the chassis. Though we didn’t install a closed-loop cooler this time, it certainly can be done, but it makes for a very crowded interior. Once you put the front bezel back in place, smack it in each corner nice and hard.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/c_small_16.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/d_small_12.jpg" title="Image D" width="620" height="930" /></a></p> <h4>5. Error Codes</h4> <p>We use a variety of monitors around the Lab, and during this build we happened to spot an unused 30-inch Dell with a resolution of 2560x1600 looking at us longingly. We thought it would be fun to test the system at that resolution, so we hooked it up only to find that we'd made a small oversight. The DVI connection on the back of this particular motherboard does not support dual-link DVI, it's single-link only. To distinguish the ports visually, DL has more pins in it—24 as opposed to single-link's 18. You need dual-link to get a 60Hz refresh rate at resolutions above 1080p. DisplayPort accomplishes this objective as well, but this board did not have that connector either, leaving us stranded on 1080p island. D’oh! For what it’s worth, you can get a motherboard in this price range with dual-link DVI, such as the MSI H87-G43, but that board has one fewer fan header than this Gigabyte board! Those fan headers come in handy, too, because this case has three fan mounts unused right out of the box, on the top, side, and front. The top even accepts 140mm fans, and the case comes with anti-vibration grommets.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/e_small_15.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/e_small_14.jpg" title="Image E" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <h4>6. Loose Ends</h4> <p>Once we had mostly finished our build, we had to find space in the chassis to stash all of our cables, which is tricky in a case this size. Even cables that are in use need to have their middle parts tucked away. By moving our hard drive forward a bit in its drive cage, we were able to free up space behind it, into which we stuffed a lot of cables. We also took advantage of the small gap between the drive cage and the front of the case. Ideally, we would have spread these cables out behind the motherboard tray, but the side panels only bulge a few millimeters, and it didn't seem worth it to squeeze the cables that much just to clean things up, especially&nbsp; when there’s no case window.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/f_small_12.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/f_small_11.jpg" title="Image F" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p>One slick feature of this chassis is that the internal 120mm intake fan can be moved to the outside of the case, where it sits behind the front bezel. This is handy if you’re trying to set up a push-pull configuration on a radiator mounted inside the front of the case, though you’d need to remove the hard drive cage to accommodate such a setup.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/last_one_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/last_one_small.jpg" title="Gut Shot" width="620" height="420" /></a></p> <h3>Back to the Haswell</h3> <p>Building systems in these small cases always poses challenges, but it wasn’t too bad this time around. It was a bit time-consuming to install the SSD and HDD, since the drive cage had to be removed, but the rest of the build was fairly painless. Once it was up and running, we were surprised by how quiet it was, despite the front of the case being nothing but mesh. You'd think some noise would leak through there, but the system was just about silent, even under full load. In fact, one time it ran for a minute or so without the CPU fan even spinning (the fan cable got caught in the blades, before we secured it with a twist tie). The case fan cables are also about 18 inches long, so they'll reach all the way from one end of the N200 to the other.</p> <p>In terms of general desktop performance, we already had a good idea of what to expect since we had already tested Intel's Haswell CPU. In testing, the Core i5-4430 was able to encode videos and render hi-res panorama photos much faster than a comparably priced AMD CPU. Even when we overclocked the AMD 6800K to 4.7GHz, it couldn't keep up with a Core i5-4430 running at 3GHz.</p> <p>The same can't be said for its gaming performance, though, as AMD clearly takes the crown from Intel. In general, Haswell’s HD 4600 graphics are around 40 percent slower than the AMD 6800K's graphics. Then again, the Core i5-4430's non-GPU performance outclasses either AMD chip.</p> <p>In the end, going Intel or AMD at this price range really comes down to what your needs are. You can get an FX-6300 for about $120 right now and add a Radeon HD 7770 for about $75 (at least after a mail-in rebate). So, for gaming on a budget, AMD provides the best value. If you're editing HD videos and hi-res photos, though, Intel wins by a comfortable margin.</p> <p>All in all, the Intel system put up a heck of a fight against the AMD builds, at least in the computing realm; not so much in gaming. The system was fast enough for basic needs though, and if we had used a motherboard with DisplayPort and/or DL-DVI, we could call this build an all-around success.</p> <div class="module orange-module article-module"><strong><span class="module-name">Benchmarks</span></strong><br /> <div class="spec-table orange"> <table style="width: 627px; height: 270px;" border="0"> <thead> <tr> <th class="head-empty"> </th> <th class="head-light"> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>ZERO</strong></p> <p style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: normal; text-align: start;"><strong>POINT</strong></p> </th> <th></th> </tr> </thead> <tbody> <tr> <td class="item">Stitch.Efx 2.0 (sec)</td> <td class="item-dark">1,710</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,135<strong><br /></strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>ProShow Producer 5.0 (sec)</td> <td>1,947</td> <td><span style="text-align: center;">1,685<strong><br /></strong></span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td class="item">x264 HD 5.0 (fps)</td> <td class="item-dark">9.0</td> <td>11.65<strong><br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>3DMark11 Performance</td> <td>1,668</td> <td>1237<strong> (-26%)<br /></strong></td> </tr> <tr> <td>Stalker: Call of Pripyat (fps)</td> <td>8.3</td> <td>8<strong> (-33%)</strong></td> </tr> </tbody> </table> </div> </div> <p><span style="font-size: 10px; font-weight: bold;"><em>Our Richland system was a quad-core 4.1GHz A10-6800K at 4.7GHz, 8GB of Kingston DDR3/1600, on a Gigabyte GA-F2A85X-D3H motherboard. It ran Radeon 8670D integrated graphics, a Mushkin Chronos SSD, and Windows 8 64-bit.</em></span></p> 2013 affordable budget cheap computer haswell Intel CPU maximum pc December 2013 Systems Features Mon, 31 Mar 2014 23:24:44 +0000 Tom McNamara 27181 at V3 Devastator Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Pint-size PC packs a punch</h3> <p>How much PC power can one jam into a bread box? (We’ll take a commercial break while the youngsters Google “bread box.”) V3 Gaming tries to answer that question with the latest iteration of its <strong>Devastator</strong> small form factor box. Unlike the four micro-towers that we <a title="micro tower" href="" target="_blank">previously reviewed</a>, the Devastator conforms to a boxier silhouette, using a slick new Silverstone SG10 case.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/v3_devastator_small_1.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/v3_devastator_small_0.jpg" alt="The Devastator fits in a pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards along with a new Haswell chip." title="V3 Devastator" width="620" height="643" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The Devastator fits in a pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards along with a new Haswell chip.</strong></p> <p>The SG10 is slightly taller than a traditional SFF box, so it can accommodate a microATX motherboard. Lest you wonder why you’d need a microATX in an SFF, we have a simple answer: multiple video cards—more on that later.</p> <p>The Devastator seems like it was configured with best-bang-for-the-buck in mind. Inside, you’ll find a pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards slotted into the Asus Gryphon Z87 board, 16GB of Corsair DDR3/1600, and a Core i5-4670K clocked up to 4.4GHz. For storage, V3 Gaming didn’t skimp on the primary drive—something a lot of vendors do these days—and outfitted the Devastator with a 256GB Plextor M5 Pro SSD. Bulk storage, however, is a bit paltry, consisting of a 1TB Toshiba desktop HDD. These days, it’s pretty hard to justify a 1TB drive on a build that costs more than $800.</p> <p>To measure the Devastator’s performance, we looked to three points of comparison. First was our aging Sandy Bridge-E zero-point test bed, where it was a give-and-take contest. In thread-light tasks, the Devastator’s higher-clocked Haswell is on par and even sometimes faster than the six-core SNB-E in our zero-point. Flip to, say, Premiere Pro CS6 or x264 HD 5.01 encoding, however, and even the elderly Sandy Bridge-E cores hammer the hell out of the less-threaded Haswell. In gaming, the tide turns yet again, with the once-mighty GeForce GTX 690 in our zero-point being trounced by the Devastator’s pair of GeForce GTX 770 cards. Boo hoo.</p> <p>But that’s not the whole story on micro-towers. We also pit the Devastator against the $4,433 Falcon Northwest Tiki, and the latter’s 4.7GHz Core i7-4770K simply dominated in the compute-heavy tasks. But, again, the Tiki’s Titan can’t compete with the dual GeForce GTX 770s—the Devastator is faster in 3DMark 11 by 22 percent. The gap closes in 3DMark Fire Strike Extreme, where the Devastator is but 10 percent faster.</p> <p>The Tiki is an extreme example, though. For the most part, simple physics and the ability of a bigger box to better displace thermals and hold more hardware put standard desktops at an advantage. For example, the $2,000 CyberPower Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE that we reviewed in our September 2013 issue aces the Devastator in compute tasks, thanks to its Core i7-4770K, and comes out slightly faster in gaming since it also has a pair of 770s, while coming in $500 cheaper. Of course, it’s also much bigger.</p> <p>Still, the Devastator is a good blend of size and performance, and is fairly priced to boot, given that small form factor boxes&nbsp; typically carry a premium.</p> <p><strong>$2,500,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> 2013 computer Hardware Holiday issues 2013 maximum pc Review silverstone case V3 Devastator Reviews Systems Mon, 03 Mar 2014 22:54:29 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 27322 at Gateway One ZX4970-UR22 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A budget-friendly AiO for dad</h3> <p>While we love powerful super-rigs that can cut through benchmarks like a hot knife through buttah, not everyone can afford an $8,000 PC. This is where a budget-friendly all-in-one computer such as the <strong>Gateway One ZX4970</strong> comes into play. At a mere $530, it certainly presents an interesting value proposition, but is it actually a good deal or a waste of dough?</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/gateway_aio_stock_image_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/gateway_aio_stock_image_small.jpg" alt="A button allows you to toggle the light behind the Gateway logo on and off. Fancy!" title="Gateway One ZX4970-UR22" width="620" height="413" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>A button allows you to toggle the light behind the Gateway logo on and off. Fancy!</strong></p> <p>The first thing you’ll notice about the ZX4970 is its 21.5-inch screen. It’s not small, but it is dwarfed by most other AiOs on the market, which generally come in 23- and 27-inch form factors. Furthermore, the display’s TN panel offers subpar viewing angles, besides being a bit dim. But where the ZX4970 really falls short is in its omission of a touchscreen, which is a shame given the presence of the touch-friendly Windows 8 OS. On the upside, we don’t have much beef with the integrated 2.5-watt speakers beneath the monitor—they serve decent volume levels, though they obviously can’t match a dedicated 2.1 setup.</p> <p>On the left side of the screen, the ZX4970 features two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader, and both a headphone and mic jack. To the right of the monitor is a button that lets you switch the AiO’s HDMI port from in to out (or vice versa) and a DVD burner. The HDMI port itself resides behind the monitor, along with four USB 2.0 ports and an Ethernet jack. It’s not an exorbitant amount of ports, but it covers most common needs. Cables can be routed through a cutout on the stand in the back. The stand allows you to bend the monitor back roughly 20 degrees, which could be useful for use from a standing position if not for the fact that the screen doesn’t support touch and the included full-size keyboard and mouse are wired, so you’re essentially tethered to your desk anyhow.</p> <p>If you’re hoping to play the latest PC games or put the machine through heavy compute tasks, the ZX4970 is not for you. While the AiO features a respectably hefty (for this price, that is) 1TB hard drive, the rest of the ZX4970’s parts are pretty bare-bones. The unit is running a dual-core Ivy Bridge–based Intel Pentium G2030 clocked at 3GHz, has 4GB of DDR3/1600, and lacks discrete graphics. Compared to our Asus ET2300 zero-point AiO, which features a quad-core processor, twice the amount of RAM, and a GeForce GT 630M GPU, Gateway’s offering faced a whole lot of pain in our benchmarks. It performed roughly 20–30 percent slower in our ProShow Producer 5 and Stitch.Efx CPU tests, and was left in the dust in x264 HD 5.0 benchmark, which thrives on cores. Our ZP AiO is by no means a tank, but compared to Gateway’s ZX4970, it was like an M4 Sherman facing off with a Volkswagen microbus full of hippies. And as far as graphics go, high-end integrated graphics are on the cusp of matching low-end mobile GPUs, but the ZX4970 uses a meager Pentium integrated-graphics solution, so it found itself roughly 60–70 percent slower than the ZP’s GeForce GT 630M in both the STALKER: CoP and Metro 2033 benchmarks. In our real-world test, we booted Borderlands 2 and ran everything on low at 1366x768 resolution and got an average frame rate in the mid-teens. No, it’s notß pretty for anything beyond casual gaming.</p> <p>While the ZX4970 is dang cheap, it’s an unfortunate example of “you get what you pay for.” It reminds us of the affordable eMachines of yesteryear, in AiO form. Although it may be a decent computer for Aunt Peg, for an enthusiast, we recommending spending a little more to build a much better desktop.</p> <p><strong>$530,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> 2013 aio all in one pc Consumer Desktops Gateway One ZX4970-UR22 Hardware Holiday issues 2013 monitor pc Review Reviews Systems Thu, 27 Feb 2014 20:29:39 +0000 Jimmy Thang 27310 at Primordial Medusa X79 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Primordial Medusa X79: Can this four-way Titan box dethrone Dream Machine?</h3> <p>With Dream Machine 2013 behind us (September 2013), we now move into the phase where vendors line up to try to kick it off the top of the heap.</p> <p>With the <strong>Medusa X79</strong>, Primordial certainly tries its damnedest. Some will peep the jet-black Corsair 900D, four-way Titan SLI, and Asus Rampage IV Extreme motherboard and think Primordial tried to clone the Dream Machine’s internals.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/system_guts10228_small_2.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/system_guts10228_small_1.jpg" alt="This big rig features an odd storage subsystem configuration." title="Primordial Medusa X79" width="620" height="669" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This big rig features an odd storage subsystem configuration.</strong></p> <p>We can assure you that it’s not true. In fact, we know Medusa X79 was already making the media rounds at the time that Dream Machine was still being assembled. What’s more, there are some huge differences between the two.</p> <p>The Dream Machine used Intel’s Core i7-3970X clocked up to 5GHz, while Primordial chose the economical Core i7-3930K chip overclocked to 4.5GHz. DM’s GPUs were off-the-shelf jobbies from EVGA, while the Titans in the Medusa X79 have been retrofitted with Heatkiller parts.</p> <p>There’s also a big difference in storage subsystems and main memory—choices we’re not sure we agree with. For RAM, Primordial went with 16GB of Corsair Platinum DDR3/1866. Call us crazy, but in this class of machine, we’d expect more RAM, even if the vast majority of folks don’t actually need it. We’re also not down with the storage options. The Medusa X79 features two 120GB Intel 520 SSDs in RAID 0 and a 1TB Western Digital Caviar Black drive. Again, we think that’s an odd choice given this machine’s caliber—and price. We’ve seen this type of storage config a couple of times now, with the CyberPower PC in our September issue and the Geekbox machine in February. We rarely ding vendors severely for such choices, as it’s something the typical enthusiast changes at order—but come on, vendors, that hard drive shortage of ought-11 is way over.</p> <p>The real question is whether the Medusa X79 successfully dethrones the Dream Machine. The short answer is no. With its CPU hanging back at 4.5GHz, the Medusa X79 fell short of the Dream Machine by about 10 percent in every CPU-related test. In gaming, we saw things a bit closer. In Batman: Arkham City the two boxes were dead even, but with the more intense 3DMark 11, Dream Machine had the edge by a hefty 7 percent margin. But let’s not kid ourselves: The Medusa X79 is not a slow machine. We can tell you that with four Titan cards, its fully capable of 4K-resolution gaming. It easily slaughters our zero-point system, too.</p> <p>One area where Medusa had the Dream Machine dead to rights was in power consumption. While we could barely scrape up enough amps to run DM2013 without crashing neighboring machines in corporate accounting, the Medusa X79 practically sips power. Well, by sip, we mean 1,300 watts on heavy loads—DM2013 pushed 1,600 watts.</p> <p>The real problem for some will be the Medusa X79’s price. While it’s actually quite a bit “cheaper” than the Dream Machine’s $12,785 (sans 4K monitor), it’s still pushing $9,500. More than half of the price is easily tied up in the custom-cooled Titan setup and other sundry custom liquid components, but it just feels as though the box is imbalanced. In this day and age, balance doesn’t just mean getting the GPU and CPU right and calling it quits; there are other parts too, such as storage. That inequity combined with the relatively “low” overclock of 4.5GHz, means Dream Machine is safe for now.</p> <p><strong>$9,556,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> 2013 Hardware maximum pc October issues 2013 Primordial Medusa X79 Review October 2013 Reviews Systems Fri, 13 Dec 2013 08:17:51 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 26880 at CyberPower Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>CyberPower Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE: Just call it Zeus</h3> <p>Not everyone can afford a <a title="Dream Machine 2013" href="" target="_blank">$16,500 Dream Machine</a>. In fact, not many people could afford even half of what we spent to build this year’s Dream rig. Well, actually, most people probably wouldn’t even spend a third of that on a new rig.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/image_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/image_small.jpg" alt="This CFI chassis features mini doors to access the drives." title="CyberPower Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE" width="620" height="605" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>This CFI chassis features mini doors to access the drives.</strong></p> <p>Enter <strong>CyberPower PC</strong>’s new <strong>Zeus Evo Thunder 3000 SE</strong>. Or if you prefer, Zeus, Zeus Thunder, or just ZET3KSE, if you’re into the whole brevity thing. CyberPower is one of those vendors that has long had us wondering how it could pack so much hardware into a box so cheaply. Example: Purchased full retail, the parts in the Zeus add up to about $2,200. The price of the Zeus with a warranty and support? $2,200.</p> <p>The Zeus is packing Intel’s new 3.5GHz <a title="Intel 4770K" href="" target="_blank">Core i7-4770K</a> overclocked to 4.2GHz. That chip is joined by 16GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3/1600 and a pair of EVGA Superclocked <a title="770" href="" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 770 cards</a>. The cards and processor are powered by a Cooler Master Silent Pro Gold 1,000-watt PSU.</p> <p>The enclosure features a CFI-A8007 design that’s new to us. Case enclosures tend to be about as different as refrigerators: There’s a door on the left and a door on the right. The CFI-A8007 has the typical compartment for the mobo and PSU but, uniquely, the storage section gets its own little swing-out doors. To extend the fridge metaphor, sorry, it’s like the little doors that let you reach in to get just the milk. For a medium-size case, CyberPower does a very nice job tucking and hiding the wiring out of sight, too.</p> <p>One thing we’re not so enamored with is the storage config the company picked. The PC comes with a 64GB Corsair Neutron SSD and a 2TB HDD. We thought the SSD was used as a caching drive but CyberPower actually configured it as a stand-alone for the OS. We know you get the most performance that way, but 64GB doesn’t go very far, and we’d much rather see caching using the Z87’s SRT feature. Configured as such, we ran out of space just running our benchmarks.</p> <p>In performance, the rig represents well against our zero-point, with its SLI 770 cards amazingly out-doing the single <a title="690" href="" target="_blank">GeForce GTX 690</a> card our zero-point runs. The Haswell CPU also slams the zero-point’s six-core <a title="sandy bridge e" href="" target="_blank">SNB-E</a> in Stitch.Efx and ProShow, but then itself gets slammed in the multithreaded workloads of Premiere Pro and x264—no surprise. Up against something more modern, such as this month’s Build It PC, the Zeus is pretty close in the CPU-limited benchmarks. Not so in the graphics department, where the Build It rig is about 26 to 28 percent faster due to its overclocked and SLI’d GTX 780 cards. Of course, there’s also a big difference between the two in price, with the Build It pushing $3,700. We’ll note, however, that our Build It has the added amenities of a custom paint job and much beefier storage.</p> <p>And storage is actually our No. 1 ding against the Zeus. The box really should have a larger SSD, or caching enabled. This ultimately hurts its score, but still, we have to give CyberPower props for delivering so much performance at such a good price.</p> <p><strong>$2,200,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> 2013 CyberPower Zeus Evo Desktop Hardware Hardware maximum pc nzxt Review September 2013 Reviews Systems Fri, 22 Nov 2013 21:57:07 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 26668 at Maingear Shift Super Stock Z87 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A Jolly Green Giant of GPU performance</h3> <p><strong><a title="maingear" href="" target="_blank">Maingear</a></strong> calls its <strong>Shift Super Stock Z87</strong> the Mean Green Machine and it’s hard not to agree with that moniker.</p> <p>Is there any other way to describe a gaming rig with not one <a title="GeForce GTX Titan" href="" target="_blank">GeForce GTX Titan</a>, or even two—but freakin’ three of them? Yes, three of the world’s fastest single-GPU cards all singing harmoniously together against the tyranny of slow frame rates.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/maingear_shift_super_stock_z87_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/maingear_shift_super_stock_z87_small.jpg" alt="For a tri-SLI rig, the Shift is actually fairly compact." title="Maingear Shift Super Stock Z87" width="620" height="594" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>For a tri-SLI rig, the Shift is actually fairly compact.</strong></p> <p>The Shift isn’t just about new GPUs, though—Maingear splashes out on other gourmet goodies. There’s none of that freeze-dried, last month’s Ivy Bridge in this box. It’s all Haswell. If you read our <a title="haswell review" href="" target="_blank">coverage on Haswell</a>, you know we’re a little melancholy about the chip because, well, we want more! Perhaps we’re being too negative. Months of dour news about the PC world can do that to a nerd. But you know what makes it all better? Speed. And the Haswell-sporting Shift has that.</p> <p>But, back to the tri-SLI. There have been concerns that, like Ivy Bridge and Z77, the Haswell/Z87 doesn’t have the available PCIe 3.0 bandwidth to serve tri-SLI. If that’s true, we can’t find evidence of it here in the Gigabyte G1.Sniper 5 board. The three Titans easily belted out the highest score we’ve ever seen in, well, all of our graphics tests. In 3DMark 11, for example, it spit out just under 14,000. How fast is that? <a title="dream machine 2012" href="" target="_blank">Last year’s Dream Machine</a> with quad-SLI (two GTX 690s) mustered a mere 10,906. The Geekbox Ego Maniacal mustered but 12,090, with a liquid-cooled quad-SLI setup. The Shift’s score in Batman: Arkham City is similarly impressive. The <a title="geekbox maniacal review" href="" target="_blank">Geekbox Ego Maniacal</a> has held the record with 134fps but the Shift pushes the bar to 184fps. Again, we’re not talking about a pair of busted up GeForce GTX 460 cards here—that’s a liquid-cooled quad-SLI setup that the Shift easily outpaces.</p> <p>Like we said, the Shift can deliver on the CPU front, as well. The <a title="i7-4770K" href="" target="_blank">Core i7-4770K</a> at 4.7GHz snaps the needle in Stitch.Efx 2.0 and ProShow Producer with new benchmark records. We have to point out one obvious thing, though: The <a title="falcon northwest fragbox" href="" target="_blank">Falcon Northwest FragBox 3</a> ain’t that far behind the Shift in the CPU tests. Neither quad-core box, however, can touch the Geekbox’s scores in the multithreaded tests such as Premiere Pro CS6 and x264.</p> <p>One thing we wish Maingear had lifted from Geekbox is its GPU liquid cooling. The Shift’s CPU is kept chilly using what the company calls its Epic 300 Open-loop Super Cooler, which doesn’t cool just the CPU but also the voltage regulation circuits on the board. That’s fine, but the three Titans, when pushed hard for long periods of time, tend to get a little audible, even with a massive fan pushing air straight through them. That’s because Maingear overclocks the hell out of the three Titans and picked a very loud fan profile. Apparently, Maingear anticipates people using the Shift in the sweltering summers on Venus. The good news is that you can easily trim the fans back to reasonable levels in the nifty EVGA utility that comes pre-installed.</p> <p>An even better solution is liquid cooling, but it’s very, very hard to argue with graphics performance that crushes even quad-SLI systems. That’s no small accomplishment and demands respect.</p> <p><strong>$7,800,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> 2013 August 2013 august 2013 computer Consumer Desktops green Hardware Hardware Maingear Shift maximum pc Review Rig z87 Reviews Systems Wed, 06 Nov 2013 19:05:39 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 26523 at Dell XPS 18 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>When form offers function</h3> <p>On paper, the <strong><a title="dell xps 18" href="" target="_blank">Dell XPS 18</a></strong> all-in-one/tablet hybrid shouldn’t work, with its massive 18.4-inch screen potentially destroying any possibility of portability. And yet, it works well.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/dell_xps18_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/dell_xps18_small.jpg" alt="The XPS 18’s large body is surprisingly light, thin, and portable." title="Dell XPS 18" width="620" height="437" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The XPS 18’s large body is surprisingly light, thin, and portable.</strong></p> <p>While its five-pound chassis isn’t necessarily light, it weighs less than many gaming laptops and is quite svelte for its class, measuring 11x18.25x.69 inches, and is half the weight of Sony’s similar <a title="tap 20" href="" target="_blank">Tap 20</a> AiO/tablet hybrid. Although it’s more than double the weight of the <a title="razer edge review" href="" target="_blank">Razer Edge</a>, a 10-inch tablet we criticized for being too heavy, we never felt like we had to lift the XPS 18, as it could rest on our laps comfortably. And because its screen is so large, our necks never had to strain to look down.&nbsp; Flip-out stands on either end of the XPS 18 allow it to be used propped up on a desk in landscape mode—with a higher angle suitable for sitting, and a lower angle for using the device from a standing position. The XPS 18 is really made to be moved from desk to desk, but it’s so elegantly designed that you could use it as a giant tablet, provided you’re OK with the strange looks you’ll surely get in public (and yes, we know this firsthand).</p> <p>Of course, the thinness that makes it viable as a tablet also leads to some compromises as an AiO, especially when it comes to ports. The XPS 18 has just two USB 3.0 ports and an SD card slot. This means no HDMI out or in, no Ethernet port, no DVD drive. Furthermore, although an 18.4-inch screen is huge for a tablet, it’s quite modest for an AiO.</p> <p>Luckily, the screen itself is gorgeous. The XPS 18 features a 1920x1080, 10-point capacitive-touch IPS display with great viewing angles and vibrant colors. Although it features a glossy surface, it’s not overly reflective like other AiOs we’ve reviewed.</p> <p>Most tablets feature speakers on the back directing audio away from you, but Dell’s offering has them side-mounted, which contributes to the XPS 18’s clear sound—the volume capabilities, however, might disappoint headbangers hoping to blast the audio to 11.</p> <p>Our unit came with a stand that raises the AiO about three inches and allows you to tilt the screen roughly 40 degrees. Supplementing it were Dell’s Tangerine wireless keyboard and mouse. While the peripherals’ black-and-gray aesthetic doesn’t quite match the XPS 18’s completely black design, both accessories are solid in use. The 15-inch keyboard has a nice weight to it and doesn’t feel like a cheap add-on, and the mouse features a scroll wheel that can be shifted left to right, which allows users to navigate horizontally through the Windows Modern UI.</p> <p>Unfortunately, the XPS 18’s specs aren’t anything to write home about. Besides its 8GB of RAM, its parts are relatively humble: a 1.8GHz Core i5-3337U CPU that can Turbo up to 2.7GHz and a 500GB hard drive with a 32GB caching SSD that helps access times in frequently used programs. But its lack of a video card is its biggest flaw.</p> <p>Because of this omission, the XPS 18 got blasted by our GeForce GT 630M–equipped <a title="asus et2300" href="" target="_blank">Asus ET2300</a> zero-point by roughly 50 percent in both our STALKER: CoP and Metro 2033 tests. This once again proves that integrated graphics can’t match even the weakest graphics cards—yet. While you certainly won’t be playing Crysis 3 on max here, we were able to get frame rates in the mid-50s on Valve’s popular Dota 2 Source Engine game on the lowest settings at 1080p resolution. The XPS 18’s dual-core CPU also could not rival our ZP’s quad-core Core i5-3330 processor, losing by similarly dramatic margins in our multithread-loving x264 benchmark. It fared a little better in our other CPU tests, but nothing worth mentioning. Booting the system took 21 seconds, which is about right for a computer with a hard drive and caching SSD combo. Battery-side, the XPS 18 lasted three hours and 22 minutes watching a high-def movie ripped from disc. While this isn’t great for a traditional tablet, it’s good for a laptop, and unprecedented for any AiO we’ve tested since, well, most don’t have batteries.</p> <p>At $1,350, what you’re paying for here is the unique form factor and dual use cases. What it lacks in ports and power, the XPS 18 makes up for with its excellent large screen, relative portability, and thoughtful design.</p> <p><strong>$1,350,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> 2013 August 2013 18 inch aio All in one august 2013 Dell XPS 18 Hardware Hardware large tablet maximum pc portable Review Reviews Systems Wed, 06 Nov 2013 18:44:33 +0000 Jimmy Thang 26582 at Sapphire Edge VS8 Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>A feisty little machine</h3> <p>Considering how poorly AMD’s A-series APU did in our <a title="cheap desktop computers" href="" target="_blank">Budget Builds</a> story, you’d think that type of chip would be outclassed by its AM3+ siblings and Intel’s crew in all scenarios. But, while that’s true in the case of big desktops, when you miniaturize the chassis to something you can slip into your murse, things get a bit more competitive. Such is the way with <a title="VS8" href=";gid=1186&amp;sgid=1190&amp;pid=1747&amp;lid=1" target="_blank">Sapphire’s Edge VS8</a> mini PC. Built around AMD’s A8-4555M mobile chip, this quad-core proc boasts a 1.6GHz chip that Turbo Clocks up to 2.4GHz. Boxes this small have typically included Intel Atom and AMD E-450 series chips, and though both are getting better, they are pretty weak CPUs. AMD’s A8-4555M, on the other hand, uses the fairly powerful Piledriver dual-core modules on the x86-side of things, and a Radeon HD 7600G for graphics. Initially, we thought we’d compare the Edge VS8 to an older E-450 or Atom-based mini PC, but the pricing of the Edge VS8 puts it firmly in the neighborhood of Intel’s Core i3-3217U-based NUC. That’s because to get the $300 NUC up and running, you’d need to add an mSATA SSD, RAM, wireless card, and OS, pushing the price to $600.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/sapphire_7854_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/sapphire_7854_small.jpg" alt="An SSD would greatly help the performance of this tiny PC." title="Sapphire Edge VS8" width="620" height="845" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>An SSD would greatly help the performance of this tiny PC.</strong></p> <p>In general compute performance, we found the A8-4555M couldn’t quite go head-to-head with the Core i3-3217U, but it put up a decent fight, and was nowhere near as dog-slow as an Atom or E-450 processor. In ProShow Producer, the Edge VS8 was about 17 percent slower than the i3-based NUC and 34 percent slower than the NUC in Stitch.Efx 2.0. In gaming, the Edge VS8 got its payback, cranking out a 3DMark 11 score that was about 47 percent faster than the NUC’s HD4000 graphics. When performance was isolated to just the GPU, the Radeon HD 7600G produced a score about 61 percent higher. We put the NUC’s graphics capability in real games at something akin to Portal 2 on low settings. The Edge is definitely better equipped for gaming, but at 1600x900 rather than 1080p.</p> <p>In our opinion, the Edge VS8 is better suited for HTPC applications. Here it excels with enough computing power to drive even the new PowerDVD 13 and its new real-time frame-by-frame sharpening algorithms. PowerDVD 13 played HD-res files as well as Blu-ray discs just fine. There were a couple of hitches when trying to skip forward several chapters, but it quickly smoothed out after a few blips. Of course, you’ll need a USB Blu-ray drive to play actual discs, but the Edge VS8 had plenty of pep to do that.</p> <p>Overall, Sapphire’s Edge VS8 does a great job of fulfilling all our HTPC streaming needs. Our primary complaint is probably with its 500GB laptop drive. We’ve become so accustomed to SSD performance that we forgot how slow laptop hard drives can be. Any enthusiast can quickly swap out the drive for an SSD, though, by opening the case. Once inside, you’ll also see a pair of SO-DIMMs and the machine’s sole source of noise: a small heat pipe and fan. Externally, the Edge VS8 features a nice rubberized finish with a built-in stand. The machine can lie on its side but it will wobble a bit.</p> <p>An SSD would greatly help the out-of-the-box performance but it would also exacerbate our other complaint, which is that once an OS is added (yes, it ships sans OS), the cost tips $550. That’s within striking distance of the NUC outfitted with a 128GB mSATA SSD and 8GB of RAM, plus OS. We wish the Edge VS8 was about $100 cheaper, but once you get down to the $350 range, you’re back into the sluggish territory of Atom and E-350/E-450 parts. Still, it’s a powerful enough box with a healthy graphics advantage over the NUC.</p> <p><strong>$450, </strong><a href=""></a></p> July 2013 2013 Hardware Hardware July 2013 Review Sapphire Edge VS8 Reviews Systems Tue, 24 Sep 2013 19:41:03 +0000 Gordon Mah Ung 26272 at HP Envy 23 TouchSmart Review <!--paging_filter--><h3>Clean-and-simple design at a premium price</h3> <p>We have to hand it to <a title="hp" href="" target="_blank">HP</a>. Despite all the trendy all-in-one PC/tablet hybrid designs coming out, its new <strong>HP Envy 23</strong> opts for a more traditional space-efficient AiO.</p> <p style="text-align: center;"><a class="thickbox" href="/files/u152332/hp_envy_23_touchsmart_small_0.jpg"><img src="/files/u152332/hp_envy_23_touchsmart_small.jpg" alt="The included keyboard and mouse can be neatly tucked under the monitor." title="HP Envy 23 TouchSmart" width="620" height="465" /></a></p> <p style="text-align: center;"><strong>The included keyboard and mouse can be neatly tucked under the monitor.</strong></p> <p>The 23-inch panel sits atop a sturdy base and is adjustable to 40 degrees. A 3-inch gap between the monitor and the 17x8-inch base lets you stow the keyboard under the monitor when not in use. Though hardly innovative, it gets the job done.</p> <p>For amenities, the Envy 23 offers a slot-load Blu-ray combo drive and an HDMI-out port on the right; four USB 2.0 ports, an Ethernet port, an external audio-out on the back; and two USB 3.0 ports, a headphone/mic jack, and an SD card reader on the left. Finally, the power button is located on top of the display, which isn’t exactly ideal, as we found ourselves accidentally turning it off when adjusting the monitor.</p> <p>The monitor itself is a 1920x1080-resolution TN display that looks sharp and sports a very glossy, mirror-like finish. The panel’s vertical off-axis is OK; its horizontal off-axis wasn’t particularly impressive, but that’s par for the course for TN panels. The display supports 10-point touch and is fairly responsive, but compared to, say, this month’s Razer Edge tablet, it was perceptibly slower when dragging a digit across the screen.</p> <p>Beneath the screen, the Envy 23 is equipped with a 3.1GHz Core i7-3770S, 12GB of dual-channel DDR3/1600, and a GeForce GT 630M. Our particular unit was also loaded with a beefy 3TB hard drive, which is much heftier than our zero-point’s Asus ET2300 1TB solution.</p> <p>The Envy’s Core i7 processor allowed it to easily lump up the ET2300’s quad-core Core i5-3330 in all of our CPU tests, especially in the multithread-hungry TechArp x264 benchmark, where the Hyper-Threading gives the i7 a 37 percent advantage. To our surprise, though, despite the Envy and ET2300 both sporting GeForce GT 630M GPUs, HP’s offering lagged by 15.5 percent in both our Metro and 3DMark 11 graphics tests. Why? It might be because the Envy’s 630M features a slightly slower .2 GTexel/s texture fill rate and 10MHz slower GPU clock, or it could simply be driver differences. Note to those who want reference drivers: Neither the Asus nor the HP allowed us to run the latest reference drivers.</p> <p>As a more real-world game workload for the box, we played Portal 2, a nontaxing Source game, and achieved average frame rates in the low 30s on max settings at native resolution, but inconsistent dipping makes this setting ill-advised. On BioShock Infinite, we got an average 31fps on the lowest settings at 1080p, which suggests the game is only playable if you scale down the resolution.</p> <p>On the audio front, the Envy 23 features Beats Audio, which gives the built-in speakers a nice bassy low end, which even works with headphones plugged-in. The speakers sound better than the ET2300’s flat-sounding thumpers, but they still pale in comparison to a quality 2.1 speaker setup.</p> <p>The included wireless keyboard is a bit flimsy, but it does its job. The mouse is equally competent, though you’ll probably want to adjust the sensitivity out of the box. Whereas our zero-point features a detachable USB dongle that occupies a USB slot, the Envy’s dongle is built into the PC itself. While that does free up a USB port, it also means you won’t be able to use the peripherals on other computers.</p> <p>The Envy 23 doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel and ends up being a decent PC in the process. While it certainly won’t replace your gaming rig, it is a capable workstation/family PC. But at $1,840, it costs a whopping $540 more than the ET2300 without giving our zero-point much to be envious about.</p> <p><strong>$1,840,</strong> <a href=""></a></p> June 2013 2013 aio all in one pc Hardware Hardware HP Envy 23 June 2013 Review touchsmart Reviews Systems Tue, 24 Sep 2013 18:38:35 +0000 Jimmy Thang 26106 at