Hardware Guides

Our initial review of nVidia's new GTX 960 looked at ASUS' Strix model of the card, a $210 unit with a custom cooler and an emphasis on silence. We declared the GTX 960 a formidable competitor at the price range, remarking that its software-side support and power made it a primary choice for 1080p gaming. AMD's closest competitor is the R9 280 – a powerful alternative for users who don't mind a bit higher TDP and less frequent driver updates – priced closer to $170 after rebates.

As nVidia continues to push SLI as an actionable configuration, the question of SLI compatibility with video games is raised once again. Not all games adequately support SLI and, for this reason, we've historically recommend a single, more powerful GPU in opposition to two mid-range options in SLI.

Part of our daily activities include extensive graphics benchmarking of various video cards and games, often including configuration, OC, and performance tweaks. As part of these benchmarks, we publish tables comparing FPS for the most popular graphics cards, ultimately assisting in determining what the true requirements are for gaming at a high FPS.

Although our test methodology includes extra steps to ensure an isolated, clean operating environment for benchmarking, the basics of testing can be executed on everyday gaming systems. This article explains how to benchmark your graphics card, framerate (FPS), and video games to determine whether your PC can play a game. Note that we've simplified our methodology for implementation outside of a more professional environment.

Round-Up: The Best 1440p Monitors for Gaming

By Published February 08, 2015 at 1:30 pm

Recently, the monitor industry has amusingly reminded me of laundry detergent. It seems like everybody is coming out with detergents that are four times as potent, and the monitor industry isn't too different in its marketing language. With the rising popularity of 4K, it's just a matter of time until the norm is to have a monitor with four times as many pixels as a 1080p screen.

The normalization of 4k monitors is certainly very exciting, but current-gen GPUs still struggle with playing games at such a high resolution. Similarly, prices for 4K monitors may be dropping, but are still high for the average gamer. Luckily, 2560x1440 screens are a reasonable compromise between performance, pixels, and price.

This round-up looks at some of the best 1440p displays on the market, particularly with a focus on gaming needs.

Save CPUs, all components manufacturing in the PC hardware industry is centered upon the same core philosophy: Design a PCB, design the aesthetics and/or heatsink, and then purchase the semiconductor or Flash supply and build a product. In the case of video cards, board partners are responsible for designing aftermarket coolers (and PCBs, if straying from reference), but purchase the GPU itself from AMD or nVidia. The “hard work” is done by the GPU engineers and fabrication plants, but that's not to trivialize the thermal engineering that board partners invest into coolers.

When our readers ask us which version of a particular video card is “best,” we have to take into account several use-case factors and objective design factors. Fully passive cooling solutions may be best for gaming HTPCs like this one, but can't be deployed for higher-TDP graphics hardware. That's where various aftermarket designs come into play, each prioritizing noise, dissipation, and flair to varying degrees.

Our coverage of last year's best PC enclosures has remained some of our most popular content to date, and as is CES tradition, we're updating the coverage for 2015. The previous years have gone through trends of mini-ITX / SFF boxes (the Steam Box craze, now dying down) and larger, enthusiast-priced boxes. This year's CES trends saw a lull from major case manufacturers like Corsair, Cooler Master (reeling from a lawsuit by Asetek), and NZXT, but welcomed budget-friendly enclosures and high-end works of art. Users seeking more mid-range enclosures will be left waiting a while longer, it seems.

As a part of our new website design – pending completion before CES – we've set forth on a mission to define several aspects of GPU technology with greater specificity than we've done previously. One of these aspects is texture fill-rate (or filter rate) and the role of the TMU, or Texture Mapping Units.

When listing GPU specifications, we often enumerate the clockrate and TMU count, among other specs. These two items are directly related to one another, each used to extrapolate the “texture filter rate” of the GPU. The terms “Texture Fill-Rate” and “Texture Filter Rate” can be used interchangeably. For demonstration purposes, here is a specifications table for the GTX 980 (just because it's recent):

This article topic stems from a recent reader email. Our inquisitive reader was curious as to the nature of variable clock speeds, primarily asking about why GPUs (specifically nVidia's) would sometimes log slower clock speeds than the overclock settings; similarly, speeds are occasionally reported higher than even what a user OC reflects.

Variable clock speeds stem from boost settings available on both AMD and nVidia architecture, but each company's version differs in execution. This brief post will focus on nVidia Boost 2.0 and why it throttles clock speeds in some environments. None of this is news at this point, but it's worth demystifying.

We've often remarked that naming structures and product branding can be a confusing space, especially when looking at things like ASUS' motherboards. Western Digital's hard drives follow a somewhat standardized branding scheme of “black is best,” then the company uses “blue,” “green,” and “red” for its other HDD options.

Today, we'll compare the WD Blue vs. WD Black and Green hard drives, then let you know which one is “best” for gaming purposes. These are the drives we're primarily looking at:

ibm-backplateIBM Model M metal backplate. Source: Geek Hack.

One of the reasons the IBM Model M – one the most widely-used original mechanical keyboards – is regarded so highly is its high, durable build quality. The durability stems from its steel backplate, used for mounting the mechanical switches; similarly, high-end mechanical keyboards of today often use metal backplates for switch mounting. While metal backplate mounting is widespread in mechanical keyboards, other materials -- such as plastic and PCB -- are also used to mount switches, with each having their own advantages.

Today, we’re looking at keyboard backplates and comparing metal vs. plastic and PCB options.


Many aspects of the hardware industry are cut-and-dry facts that are easy to understand -- X GPU gets 40 FPS while Y GPU gets 60, for instance. One item that is largely ignored, in part due to its complicated and over-marketed nature, is monitors. Contrast ratio, input delay, response time, pixel pitch, and resolution are all important aspects of monitors, but aren’t always well understood by consumers. On top of this, marketing speak from competing vendors has inflated some specifications to a point of being entirely useless as a unit of comparison.

Due to this, monitor selection can be intimidating or overwhelming. For this reason, we’ve pulled together the best gaming monitors for our 2014 monitor buyer’s guide, including 1080, 1440p, and 4K displays.

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