Retailers and manufacturers are always happy to give consumers purchasing options: Spend an extra $30 and get buying insurance, another $50 and you get an extended warranty, spend untold thousands on a car to add Bluetooth, and in the case of video cards, an extra $20 and you get a “faster” card in the form of a pre-OC or “SuperClock.”
We’ve explained overclocking as it pertains to GPUs in the past, but never looked specifically at pre-overclocked or SuperClocked cards. The realistic intent of higher-clocked GPUs is to enable users who are either too busy/lazy to overclock, would prefer to have an expert do it for them, or who are legitimately unaware of or afraid of overclocking. Some of the high-end overclocking cards are binned-out with hotter chips (chips that can overclock higher), but not all SuperClocked and pre-overclocked cards are like this. Many of the available options are just overclocked versions of the stock card.
We remarked upon the GTX 750 / 750 Ti reveal that passive cards were a distinct possibility, given the low TDP and ability of the cards to operate solely on motherboard PCI-e power. Hovering at a 55W TDP, nVidia’s GM107-powered GTX 750 doesn’t draw any power from the PSU and has a lower thermal footprint than any of its higher-powered brethren. With the right heatsink design, it’s always been an ideal candidate for a passively-cooled, silent, low-profile HTPC video card.
ZOTAC announced its “GTX 750 ZONE” passively-cooled solution just a few weeks ago. Standard GTX 750 specs apply, the one exception being that Zotac has nixed the active fan in favor of a larger aluminum and copper heatsink with no active components. Thermals are always a concern when operating a passively-cooled device, and with GPUs, thermals will directly impact the throttling and performance (FPS) output in games.
We benchmarked Zotac’s passive GTX 750 Zone video card for temperatures and framerate (FPS) in Metro, GRID, Battlefield 4, Titanfall, Watch_Dogs, and FurMark. These results can be extrapolated upon for a wider-spectrum understanding of the GPU’s worth for gaming.
There was a time when mouse bungees cost $20 to $30 and were a novel invention. Thankfully, that time's long past. There was also a time when we reviewed Razer's eXactMat X (2009) and remarked that its $40 price-point was the most we'd ever shelled-out for a mouse pad, but followed-up that the purchase was well worth it for sturdy aluminum.
Razer's pad, by the way, is still in use and now has about 5 years of life on it. Aluminum lasts a lot longer than cloth -- go figure.
Thermaltake's new Tt eSports "Draconem" mouse pad is a 2mm-thick, dual-side mousing surface with detachable cable bungee. The smooth side of the pad is brushed aluminum and anodized, outfitted with decals in opposing corners for the Tt eSports logos; the rougher side is grittier to offer greater traction with the mouse's Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) feet, colored with a red dragon emblem off-center.
The Draconem is somewhat massive, scaling in at 360 x 300 x 5mm (14.1 x 11.8 x 0.2") and taking up significant desk real-estate.
Back in the day, one keyboard reigned supreme -- the IBM Model M. A buckling spring keyboard that informed supervisors how hard their cube-slaves were working due to its loud sound upon actuation. But these wonderful times did not last forever. The membrane switch was developed, which was far cheaper as a result of using a rubber dome instead of springs to register keypresses, and since that day mechanical keyboards grew more scarce.
The mechanical keyboard industry has been expanding. Fast. Cherry MX mechanical switches are the primary switches sold, but there are competitors in the marketplace. Tesoro has been expanding into the North American market with their mechanical keyboards, adding yet another name to the myriad of brands currently on digital shelves. Interestingly, like some other brands -- Razer and Thermaltake included -- Tesoro is using Kailh mechanical switches in their keyboards instead of standard Cherry MX or Topre switches.
SSD benchmarks generally include two fundamental file I/O tests: Sequential and 4K random R/W. At a very top-level, sequential tests consist of large, individual files transfers (think: media files), which is more indicative of media consumption and large file rendering / compilation. 4K random tests employ thousands of files approximating 4KB in size each, generally producing results that are more indicative of what a user might experience in a Windows or application-heavy environment.
Theoretically, this would also be the test to which gamers should pay the most attention. A "pure gaming" environment (not using professional work applications) will be almost entirely exposed to small, random I/O requests generated within the host OS, games, and core applications. A particularly piratical gamer -- or just someone consuming large movie and audio files with great regularity -- would also find use in monitoring sequential I/O in benchmarks.
This article looks at a few things: What types of I/O requests do games spawn most heavily and what will make for the best gaming SSDs with this in mind? There are a few caveats here that we'll go through in a moment -- namely exactly how "noticeable" various SSDs will be in games when it comes to performance. We used tracing software to analyze input / output operations while playing five recent AAA titles and ended up with surprisingly varying results.
UPDATE: Clarified several instances of "file" vs. "I/O" usage.