It looks like Office Space's best company is back in action. Inateck (not quite Initech) recently contacted us to request review of their KT4005 product, a 4xUSB3.0 port PCI-e expansion card that does nothing more than add extra USB3.0 ports to a system. Skeptical of this sort of thing, we decided to take Inateck up on the offer and benchmark performance using multiple devices connected simultaneously, all transferring at maximum bandwidth.

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In this benchmark and review of Inateck's KT4005 USB3.0 PCI-e card, we look at sequential and random throughput using various USB3.0 devices.

The delay of Valve's Steam Machine (or Steam Box) has forced the hand of systems manufacturers. Alienware, Gigabyte with the Brix, and now Zotac have all begun shipping their would-have-been Steam Machines as DIY mini-PCs. Steam has disallowed the shipment of officially branded Steam Machines until the completion of its haptic controller, leaving system manufacturers scrambling to untie the resources dedicated to machines that were originally slated for a 2014 launch.

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In an official capacity, Gigabyte's BRIX Pro and Zotac's EN760 are not "Steam Machines" -- at least, not by branding -- but they might as well be. The EN760 (Newegg page) ships in two models: The EN760 and EN760 Plus. The base model ships without RAM or permanent storage at $540; the Plus edition includes a single 8GB stick of 1600MHz RAM and 1x1TB 5400RPM HDD. Both units are outfitted with an 860M mobile GPU, i5-4200U mobile CPU, and custom board design to fit in a 7.4" x 7.4" x 2" (188 x 188 x 51mm) shell. 

We've been recommending Plantronics' GameCom 780 headset alongside our PC builds for a few years now, generally calling it the "best value for gamers." The 780 has fluctuated between the $50 and $80 price range, and at either end of that spectrum, it has always dominated as a high-endurance, high-performing solution for gaming audio and input. Our original review 780 is still functional, and that's after nearly two years of constant use -- the longest time I've ever had a headset last.

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Plantronics recently contacted us about a GameCom 788 refresher of the original 780. There haven't been any changes to the audio drivers and underlying audio tech, so it's all aesthetics and marketing. The 788 ships alongside updated Windows 8/8.1 compatibility, joined by most of Plantronics' other audio products.

In this review and hands-on with Plantronics' GameCom 788, we look at the headset's sound quality, build quality, comfort, and usefulness in gaming.

HyperX Fury 1866MHz RAM Benchmark & Review

Written by Monday, 30 June 2014 06:07

There's no argument that RAM has become commoditized in the marketplace. This has been reinforced by furthered emphasis on appearances and the prevalence of high-capacity modules at relatively stabilized prices. DDR3 DRAM fabrication has also improved its yield steadily through the years, making high-frequency memory more abundant than ever. Kingston and Corsair recently told us that they've each almost completely halted production of 1333MHz consumer memory, primarily because the yield of DDR3-1600 is so high that lower frequencies actually have diminishing returns on cost.

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As it turns out, RAM also feels like a relatively uninteresting component when selecting parts for a new system -- such is the nature of a stable product. It's similar to buying gas, in that regard; serious enthusiasts might deliberate over suppliers and octane specifications, but most users just fill up with the most convenient and affordable source. That's not to diminish the importance of quality RAM, though it does currently feel like a fairly stagnated market. Things will change in the face of DDR4.

It's felt like an agonizingly slow five years, but SSDs are finally affordable for most PC builds. The 2009 consumer launch saw the arrival of Intel's X25 SSD, built atop SLC architecture and priced accordingly. I remember testing some of the first X25 SSDs and the resulting stack of $1200 paperweights that had accumulated. Thankfully, things have come a long way since then. With the advent of new NAND types that can pack multiple bits into a single cell, affordability and flexibility of use have arrived to the SSD marketplace.

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This year in particular has seen the rapid expansion of consumer-ready SSDs, particularly with a refresh of Crucial's budget-class SSDs, ADATA's forward positioning, and Corsair's updated Force lineup. And there's more, too -- Seagate, Samsung, Kingston, PNY, SanDisk, and Mushkin have continued to ship into 2014, with Samsung planning more releases in short order.

With all these choices and the beginning price-war, it's an ideal time for consumers to jump on the constant SSD sales and the rapidly collapsing price-point. This buyer's guide will introduce the best SSDs for the price in gaming and enthusiast uses, hopefully helping with tips on selecting an SSD. We're going to stay away from the high-performance / professional marketplace in this guide.

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