We’ve noticed that one of the important factors in team game coordination and success is the extent of communication. That’s no big surprise for anyone, but it’s especially true for faster-paced games such as shooters and MOBAs. Oftentimes, text wheels and typing are decent, but in the heat of the moment nothing beats using a mic to communicate.
Unfortunately, many users may not have much desk space for a desk mic or might have a lot of background noise, making it less than ideal to grab a broadcast mic. Further, for folks who already own high-end headphones that they don’t want to replace with a headset (which oftentimes have mediocre mics and speakers), it’d be nice to keep using those headphones just with a mic attachment. This leaves few options except for clip-on mics (which are easy to hit, annoying to use, and sometimes require amps) or something like the Antlion ModMic. We previously reviewed the ModMic 4 and found it to be a reliable product, with some minor issues that were largely overlooked at its price tag.
We just received Antlion’s new version of the ModMic for review: the ModMic 5. This new version features more robust build quality, omni- and uni-directional mics, and a removable mute switch, but it also has a higher price tag of $70.
The official reveal of the Nintendo Switch left a lot to be desired, particularly in the hardware department. That’s not particularly surprising with Nintendo -- the company isn’t known for being open with its CPU and GPU specifications -- but we already have a Switch on pre-order for tear-down and in-depth performance analysis in the lab.
Regardless, even without further specs from Nintendo, we can still go through the basics and make some assumptions based on fairly credible leaks that are out there.
AMD may have inadvertently given out information today that could narrow down the release window for their upcoming Ryzen CPUs. The possible release date information was provided by a panel description for the upcoming Game Developers Conference (GDC), where AMD will host a panel detailing Zen optimization techniques for programmers. GDC 2017 takes place from February 27-March 3. This coupled with the AMD panel description from the GDC website (and our own digging while at CES) tells us that Ryzen will ship at the end of February.
In the original panel description (that has since been changed), AMD was asking session attendees to join their “Game Engineering team members for an introduction to the recently-launched AMD Ryzen CPU.” “Recently-launched” is the key phrase and indicates that the Ryzen CPU would likely already be available prior to GDC 2017, which again is February 27-March 3.
This year’s case manufacturers will primarily be focused on shifting to USB Type-C – you heard it here first – as the upcoming trend for case design. Last year, it was a craze to adopt tempered glass and RGB LEDs, and that’s plainly not stopped with this year’s CES. That trend will carry through the half of 2017, and will likely give way to Type-C-heavy cases at Computex in May-June.
For today, we’re looking at the best PC cases of 2017 thus far, as shown at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Our case round-ups are run every year and help to determine upcoming trends in the PC cases arena. This year’s collection of the top computer cases (from $60 to $2000) covers the major budget ranges for PC building.
AMD’s Ryzen platform is on its march to the launch window – likely February of 2017 – and will be pushing non-stop information until its time of delivery. For today, we’re looking at the CPU and chipset architectures in greater depth, following-up on yesterday’s motherboard reveal.
First, let’s clear-up nomenclature confusion: “Zen” is still the AMD next generation CPU architecture name. “Ryzen” is the family of CPUs, comparable to Intel’s “Core” family in some loose ways. Each Ryzen CPU will exist on the Zen architecture, and each Ryzen CPU will have its own individual alphanumeric identifier (just like always).
CES 2017 allowed our team to dig deeper into the Zen architecture, its Ryzen family of CPUs, and the ensemble of AM4 motherboards in the pipes. There are currently “more than 50” SKUs of AM4 motherboards, according to the AMD team, and that’ll include the X370, B350, A320, and A/B/X300 chipsets. In this article, we’ll provide a GN-made block diagram of Ryzen’s PCIe lanes and other features, a look at ASRock and Biostar motherboards, and some brief notes on the S3.0 radiator.
Before diving in, here’s a block diagram that GamersNexus created to better represent the Ryzen / Chipset relationship:
We just published our final video walkthrough of iBUYPOWER’s ongoing “Project Snowblind” enclosure, which uses an NZXT Noctis 450 and custom LCD side panel assemblage. The setup has been in our coverage for several months now, starting with PAX Prime in September, followed by an office visit in October (with several upgrades), and now concluding with CES 2017.
In its simplest form, the Snowblind enclosure offers an LCD side panel (rather than traditional case side panel) which is capable of graphics playback or Rainmeter overlay. Really, it can do anything that an extra monitor could do, it’s just limited by visibility and contrast. The Snowblind uses all white/black internals to ensure the side panel’s output remains as legible as possible, and further uses ultra-bright LEDs along the inside wall of the side panel to provide the effective “backlight” for the display. iBUYPOWER is using an expansion slot in the case to host a small card that bridges comms between a DVI link (from the GPU), but the card does not use any motherboard slots. A simple DVI pass-through runs from the video card to the expansion card, which then runs the wiring to the LCD side panel.
At CES 2016, Razer introduced what they touted as the long-awaited solution for laptop users that wanted desktop power gaming: the Razer Blade Stealth and the Razer Core. Razer promised UltraBook lightweight portability combined with PNP conversion to desktop GPU performance; however, like many products at CES, only part of the solution was ready. The UltraBook and external GPU enclosure combination was demonstrated at that CES and, to Razer’s credit, PNP worked … mostly.
While on the show floor, we were permitted to disconnect and reconnect the Core from the Stealth multiple times to watch the PNP in action. During the process, the engineers that we worked with explained the many difficulties involved with making real-time driver switching across Thunderbolt 3 (brand new, at that point) work. Asking a Microsoft OS to disconnect and reconnect display drivers from 3 different vendors (AMD, Intel, nVidia) was challenging. So, as we watched Windows change the display drivers in real time through Device Manager, we were impressed to see it working even if it wasn’t the fully polished end product. Soon after the show, Razer began delivering Stealths with 6th generation Core i7 CPUs, 2560x1440 QHD or 4K touch screens, 8GB of DDR3 DRAM, and up to 512GB PCIe based SSDs. The only slightly disappointing specification was the 45 WHr battery which provided around 9 hours of use.
Deepcool has made their mark on the PC hardware industry by including liquid cooling solutions in their cases. Deepcool’s Genome cases had a helical reservoir built into the front of the case. At CES 2017, Deepcool unveiled three new liquid-cooled cases, a show case, and two similar RGB fan sets.
The MF120 and MF120GT are the two new fans. The MF120GT uses a traditional housing design with the LEDs in an “X” pattern across the middle. The MF120 housing implements a frameless design with the RGB LEDs running nearly parallel through the middle. Both models share several properties: the housings are aluminum, the blades have a unique design meant to improve air pressure, they rotate on FDBs, and the fans are PWM adjustable between 500 and 2200 RPM. The plan is to sell 3 fans and a controller for $100 USD, and the system will be controlled through an Android or Apple mobile app. Unfortunately, there are no plans for a Windows desktop control app at the moment.
Optane is Intel’s latest memory technology. The long-term goal for Optane is for it to be used as a supplemental system memory, caching storage, and primary storage inside PCs. Intel claims that Optane is faster than Flash NAND, only slightly slower than DRAM, has higher endurance than NAND, and, due to its density, will be about half the cost of DRAM. The catch with all of these claims is that Intel has yet to release any concrete data on the product.
What we do know is that Lenovo announced that they will be using a 16GB M.2 Optane drive for caching in a couple of their new laptops during Q1 2017. Intel also announced that another 32GB caching drive should be available later in the year, something we’ve been looking into following CES 2017. This article will look into what Intel Optane actually is, how we think it works, and whether it's actually a viable device for the enthusiast market.