Hardware

Teased at CES 2016, Corsair's 400C ($90) enclosure swiftly followed the chart-topping 600C, a case that dominated our GPU cooling charts. The 600C and 600Q cases instituted an inverted motherboard layout – rotating and flipping board installation such that the GPU is oriented “upside-down” – but stuck with tried-and-died optical drive support. To allow for an enclosure more fitting of the “mid-tower” form factor, Corsair removed the 5.25” support in its new Carbide Series 400C & 400Q cases, shrinking the height from ~21 inches to ~18.27 inches.

This review of the Corsair Carbide 400C benchmarks cooling performance for CPUs and GPUs, all accompanied by build quality and installation analysis. The 400Q is more-or-less the same case, just with the window removed and sound-damping material added.

AMD's new “Wraith” CPU cooler makes a few engineering changes: Overall surface area of the aluminum heatsink has increased 24%, the fan has been heavily modified from the previous stock cooler (which should be named the “banshee,” given its shrill output), and it's got an LED. We first got eyes-on with the Wraith at CES 2016, but have returned today with in-house validation of CPU cooler performance.

Today marks the list date of AMD's new Wraith CPU cooler, which will accompany “specially marked” processors for no added cost, we're told. The Wraith replaces AMD's old stock cooler, pictured in this article, though both products will remain shipping. The FX-8370 units with the old cooler will sell for a new, dropped price. MSRP stands at $200 for the FX-8370 Wraith Edition, as we're calling it, bumping the non-Wraith FX-8370 down to $190. That's a $10 difference for the denser cooler with LED back-light – now just to determine whether the $10 is worthwhile.

This review benchmarks AMD's Wraith CPU cooler vs. the original stock AMD CPU cooler, then throws-in an aftermarket air cooler for comparison. We modulate fan RPMs between the two AMD coolers to get a feel for overall efficiency and noise-thermal trade-offs.

NZXT Manta Mini-ITX Case Review & Benchmark

By Published January 26, 2016 at 10:00 am

Deriving a computer case from a Ferrari 458 seems like a bit of a stretch – but everyone's got to have an origin story, and that's where NZXT started with its Manta case. A previous tour of NZXT's offices showed us that case designers do, in fact, plaster photos of cars upon the office walls and leverage the visual prompts in concepting phases. The Manta makes its statement with curved, stamped paneling made of all steel, creating somewhat of a 'bubbled' look to the enclosure.

The mini-ITX case is NZXT's first venture into sub-ATX form factors since the Vulcan, but keeps to a familiar “tower” form factor that we're calling “Full-Size ITX.” It's not the shoebox form factor that ITX system builders may be used to and feels like a slightly distant cousin to the S340 ($70). In this NZXT Manta ($140) review, we run in-depth cooling benchmarks for a gaming system, analyze build quality, and determine overall value vs. other market contenders.

Aside from some odd encounters in the Fury X department and poor initial driver support, AMD's continued R9 roll-out has increasingly improved in its competitive posturing. We've already looked at the R9 380X as provided by Sapphire and remarked that we felt “confident in recommending” AMD's newest device. Today, we're moving to PowerColor's PCS+ R9 380X, a dual-fan-cooled 380X chip with a slight pre-overclock, but significant overhead for additional clock increases.

Our benchmark reviews the PowerColor R9 380X Myst Edition graphics card vs. Sapphire's R9 380X Nitro, including FPS, thermal, and OC testing.

For a review of the R9 380X as it compares to other cards – like the similarly-priced GTX 960 – we'd recommend our R9 380X review and individual game benchmarks (including ACS, Battlefront, Fallout, and more). This review specifically looks at the PCS+ 380X as it compares to our other R9 380X, the Sapphire Nitro card.

Logitech G410 Atlas Spectrum TKL Keyboard Review

By Published December 23, 2015 at 4:25 pm

For years now, Cherry MX switches have been the norm in mechanical keyboards, but recently Cherry’s dominance has been threatened. Cherry’s patent expired, and now companies like Kaihua and Gateron are making clones of Cherry MX switches and altering the design to add features like RGB lighting. Other switches also exist, like the Romer-G switch that Logitech developed with Omron for Logitech’s G910 and G410 Atlas Spectrum keyboards. The Romer-G switches are designed with significant differences from the usual Cherry, Kailh, and other plus-stem clone switches, something we previously talked about a few times.

The latter keyboard is our review topic today. Logitech’s G410 Atlas Spectrum ($130) is a unique keyboard with RGB lighting, a tenkeyless design, and Romer-G switches. Romer-G switches are currently only available on the G410 and its larger brother, the G910 ($140).

EVGA GTX 970 Hybrid Review & Benchmark

By Published December 15, 2015 at 5:00 pm

Liquid-cooled graphics cards have blown up over the past year. They've existed before, but never to the level of publicity as spurred-on by AMD's Fury X and nVidia's high-end Maxwell board partners. With the MSI Sea Hawk 980 Ti, we explained why CLC systems for GPUs make excellent sense in the correct use case scenario. We mostly called attention to the obvious thermal reduction on the silicon, increased power efficiency by reducing capacitor leakage, and the ability for high-heat, “Big GPUs” to push more substantial overclocks. This is thanks to an avoidance of thermal throttling of the clock, meaning we become more limited by overall chip stability and BIOS vCore locks.

But liquid doesn't always make sense. CLCs drive the BOM up, increasing what the user pays for the solution. Most CLCs, depending on supplier (read about who really makes liquid coolers), are only good for a few years – five, on average – and that's undesirable to users seeking serious endurance. I'd imagine that most of our audience aims to build or upgrade systems at least once within a five-year period, perhaps mitigating the impact of this consideration. The issue is further diminished by just how easy it is to maintain these things: popping in a new cooler will get it up-and-running again, and they're fairly standardized (in the case of the 970 Hybrid or Sea Hawk, anything by Asetek will work). More work than required for an air-cooled card, but even those face decay from prolonged service life (often thermal compound or pads need to be re-applied).

At the surface, the GTX 970 Hybrid doesn't appear to like an application where “liquid makes sense.” That's what testing is for, and we'll look at use case scenarios for overclocking, ultra-low thermal systems, SFF rigs with thermal concerns, and more.

In this review of EVGA's GTX 970 Hybrid, we benchmark stock and overclocked performance in games (FPS), temperatures, and power consumption.

SilverStone’s Raven RV02 enclosure was once a chart-topper in our bench, laying claim to thermal superiority by taking risks. The RV02 uniquely approached system configuration by rotating the motherboard 90-degrees clockwise, a move that slipstreamed intake from three bottom-mounted, 180mm fans into the video card and CPU cooler. All of the air exhausted through a single top fan, creating a “Stack Effect” solution that yielded high-performance cooling for the GPU and CPU.

It’s been a while since the RV02 came out and made its splash and – a fact we didn’t learn until months after our review – that case was dust-prone, resultant of its positive pressure and all-bottom intake setup. We’ve been due for another risk-taker in the market.

Corsair today officially launches its new 600C and 600Q cases, each deploying an inverted motherboard design and strongly highlighting cooling efficiency. In the 600C/Q, the motherboard is not only rotated by 180-degrees, but inverted – it’s on the right side of the case, rather than the left. Without front-facing I/O, this is the only way to pull-off a 180-degree motherboard rotation. The models are differentiated by the right side panel (which, remember, is the access panel to the board): the 600Q (“quiet”) sacks the window in favor of a steel panel with sound-damping material; the 600C spotlights internals with its large window, somewhat similar to the company’s 760T arrangement (though not glass). The 600C/Q cases are each priced at $150.

AMD R9 380X Review & Benchmark: Red Strides Forward

By Published November 19, 2015 at 7:58 am

“Team Red” appears to have been invigorated lately, inspired by unknown forces to “take software very seriously” and improve timely driver roll-outs. The company, which went about half a year without a WHQL driver from 2H14-1H15, has recently boosted game-ready drivers near launch dates, refocused on software, and is marketing its GPU strengths.

The newest video card from AMD bears the R300 series mark, from which we previously reviewed the R9 380 & R9 390 GPUs. AMD's R9 380X 4GB GPU costs $230 MSRP, but retails closer to $240 through board partners, and hosts 13% more cores than the championed R9 380 graphics card (~$200 after MIRs). That places the R9 380X in direct competition with nVidia's GTX 960 4GB, priced at roughly $230, and 2GB alternative at $210.

Today, we're reviewing the Sapphire Nitro version of AMD's R9 380X graphics card, including benchmarks from Battlefront, Black Ops III, Fallout 4, Assassin's Creed Syndicate, and more. The head-to-head would pit the R9 380X 4GB vs. the GTX 960 4GB, something we've done in-depth below. We'll go into thermals, power consumption, and overclocking on the last page.

MSI B150A Gaming Pro Motherboard Review

By Published November 13, 2015 at 11:05 am

Not every machine needs a Z170 motherboard. This fact is often overlooked by builders concerned with potentially limiting themselves in expansion options or framerate – a valid concern – but in instances where overclocking and multi-GPU arrays are not intended, B- and H- chipsets work perfectly. The chipset structure provides a hierarchy of prices for different target markets, with H170, B150, and H110 offering particularly compelling solutions for mainstream gaming PC builds.

Our previous motherboard review looked at Biostar's H170-Z3 board, which uses the H170 chipset and hosts both DDR3L and DDR4 memory slots. Today's review looks at the MSI B150A Gaming Pro motherboard, a business chispet-equipped board targeting the gaming market. MSI's B150A Gaming Pro hits the market at around $120 MSRP, justifying some of its price hike over competing boards by way of RGB LEDs.

This review looks at the power consumption of the B150A Gaming Pro, boot times, board layout, and UEFI power afforded to the user.

We recently reviewed the Corsair Strafe ($110), a mechanical keyboard with semi-customizable backlighting. Since then, the Strafe RGB keyboard has come out as the higher-end RGB version with the same chassis.

The Strafe RGB is a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Brown RGB, MX Red RGB, or MX Silent Red RGB switches, including a full 16.8 million colors available for lighting customization. Other than the option to set macros, the Strafe RGB is still a normal keyboard -- nothing too crazy about it, but that fits the Strafe’s market. The primary obstacle to the Strafe – which is the case with many PC components and high-end keyboards – is the price tag: $150, in this case.

  VigLink badge