Hardware

For anybody who has read our mechanical keyboard specs dictionary, it’s likely abundantly obvious that we enjoy mechanical keyboards. Despite an avid interest in mechanical keyboards, they don’t lend themselves to every situation. Even “quiet” mechanical switches -- like Cherry MX Reds or Browns -- can be fairly loud in comparison to a rubber dome keyboard; similarly, mechanical keyboards are not for those with stricter budgets in mind, since even the lowest priced mechanical keyboards are $50+, whereas rubber dome keyboards are available all the way to less than $10.

For those unwilling to spend $50+ on a keyboard, options exist in the form of budget-oriented, rubber dome keyboards. The Cougar 200k is one such keyboard, employing scissor switches and setting out with a respectable price-point of $30, promising few large compromises.

The first consumer-priced PCI-e SSDs are finally trickling to market. OCZ's RevoDrive was one of the only consumer-facing PCI-e SSDs, priced out of range for most gamers and facing somewhat widespread endurance and stability issues as the device aged. During a period of SandForce domination, the industry waited for the third-generation refresh of the SF controllers to introduce widespread PCI-e SSDs. The third gen controllers promised what effectively would act as an interface toggle, allowing manufacturers to purchase a single controller supply for all SATA and PCI-e SSDs, then “flip the bit” depending on demand. Such an effort would reduce cost, ultimately passed on to the user. This controller saw unrelenting delays, giving rise to alternatives in the meantime.

Then M.2 became “a thing,” bringing smaller SSDs to notebooks and desktops. The M.2 standard is capable of offering superior throughput to SATA III (6Gbps) by consuming PCI-e lanes. Pushing data through the PCI-e bus, M.2 devices circumnavigate the on-board SATA controller and its abstraction layers, responsible for much of the overhead showcased in peak 550MB/s speeds. The M.2 interface can operate on a four-lane PCI-e 2.0 configuration to afford a maximum throughput of 2GB/s (before overhead), though – as with all interfaces – this speed is only awarded to capable devices. Each PCI-e 2.0 lane pushes 0.5GB/s (GT/s). Some M.2 devices utilize just two PCI-e lanes, restricting themselves to 1GB/s throughput but freeing-up the limited count of PCI-e lanes on Haswell CPUs (16 lanes from the CPU, up to 8 lanes from the chipset).

We previously awarded NZXT's H440 an Editor's Choice Award, and it looks like its budget-priced cousin – the S340 ($70) – is pretty respectable in its own ways. The S340 is a minimalistic case designed to keep costs low without sacrificing quality; it’s plain, it’s neat, and it gets the job done efficiently.

CyberPower Fangbook III GTX 980M Review & Benchmark

By Published February 19, 2015 at 8:10 pm

When it comes to price, gaming laptops are the worst of all worlds: We lose the tremendous customization afforded by custom PC builds, but the sacrifice is made in return for portability and all-in-one versatility. Laptops use a “business triangle” as any other product would, generally forcing selection between size (portability), performance, and battery life; to get all three is possible, but maddeningly expensive.

Gaming laptops range from roughly $800 to more than $3000, in the case of the mechanical keyboard-equipped GT80 Titan. High-performance laptops are the worst of all worlds: Small size is expensive, high performing mobile components are expensive, battery life is expensive.

The HyperX Cloud II headset is an update to the first Cloud, using an identical chassis and build with a few key upgrades. The Cloud II still allows swappable ear cups with leatherette or memory foam, uses a braided cable for durability, and uses two 53mm sound drivers. HyperX's use of 53mm drivers grants the Cloud some of the largest gaming headset drivers out there, generally matching up against 40mm and 50mm competition.

The major difference with the Cloud II against its predecessor is the introduction of an in-house designed DSP, responsible for processing virtual surround at 7.1 channels; the original cloud delivered a strict stereo output and was connected via two 3.5mm jacks. Kingston's new Cloud uses a single, 4-pole 3.5mm jack (left output, right output, mic, ground) that connects to the DSP (Digital Signal Processor, basically an in-line sound card), which then attaches to the host via USB. The DSP is tasked with processing the audio, including mic input.

Frequency response (output) is tuned to 15Hz – 25KHz on the Cloud II, affording a range slightly wider than nearby competition (normally 20Hz-20KHz), though this won't necessarily be all that noticeable to most users.

Our long-standing favorites on the site have been Plantronics' GameCom 780 ($60) & 788 refresh ($80). Priced at $80, the Cloud II headset serves as a direct alternative to the Plantronics 788 and offers similar gaming audio features.

In studies distributed by DFC Intelligence, we've learned that approximately half of all PC gamers use a headset for audio while gaming. Even in that user group, there's an undefined overlap of speaker users. Headsets offer microphone input and positional audio that can be advantageous to quick and accurate reactions to in-game events – footsteps being the easy example – but not all games have competitive demands. Speakers offer a versatility and quality that cannot be offered by the average gaming headset, ensuring that high-quality sound systems retain relevance even in gaming environments.

We've had a chance to look over Genius' GX Gaming 2.1 2000 ($96) speaker system, including a control hub and 29W subwoofer. The unit was deployed on our gaming HTPC, a high-end living room home-theater setup that demands speaker versatility and ease-of-use. The test setup had Genius' 2.1 speakers connected to a TV/PC, turntable (record player), game console, and line-in MP3 player all simultaneously.

It's official: The price gap between the GTX 960 and GTX 970 is large enough to drive a Ti through. NVidia's new GeForce GTX 960 2GB graphics card ships at $200, pricing it a full $50 cheaper than the GTX 760's launch price. The immediate competition would be AMD's R9 285, priced almost equivalently.

NVidia's GTX 960 is intended to target the market seeking the best video card for the money – a segment that both AMD and nVidia call the “sweet spot” – and is advertised as capable of playing most modern games on high settings or better. The GTX 960 uses a new Maxwell GPU, called the GM206, for which the groundwork was laid by the GTX 980's GM204 GPU. In our GTX 980 review, we mentioned that per-core performance and per-watt performance had increased substantially, resulting in a specs listing that exhibits a lower core count and smaller memory interface. AMD has leveraged these number changes in recent marketing outreaches, something we'll discuss in the conclusion.

This GeForce GTX 960 review tests the new ASUS Strix 960 video card against the 970, 760, R9 285, & others. The benchmark analyzes GTX 960 FPS performance in titles like Far Cry, Assassin's Creed, EVOLVE, and other modern titles. The GTX 960 is firmly designed for 1080p gaming, which is where the vast majority of monitors currently reside.

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The advent of affordable, low TDP, high-performance PC hardware has enabled configuration of living room gaming PCs that act as consoles once did. The difference, of course, is more versatile functionality and greater immediate upgrade potential, ensuring gaming at the highest settings possible while retaining DVR-replacement options. There's no argument that traditional gaming consoles – like the Xbox and PS4 – have their place in this industry, but diehard PC enthusiasts finally have affordable Small Form Factor (SFF) HTPC configurations.

We recently explored the possibility of a $665 DIY HTPC with moderate graphics performance, effectively serving as a budget console replacement with Netflix / streaming options. The entire system measured in at just 20.9” x 10.2” x 14.5” – easily hidden beneath the TV.

Today's review looks at a significantly more powerful option, featuring the GTX 980 (which we've called “the best video card available”) and an i7-4790K CPU. The “Vapor Xtreme” is CyberPower's latest venture, branded independently as a “Syber” PC, similar to Kingston's branding separation with its HyperX division.

It's rare that we see innovation where suppliers already dominate a market. Keyboard switches are one such market: Cherry undoubtedly boasts the largest foothold with its colored MX switches, with Kailh grasping at part of that western stronghold. Most major keyboard manufacturers source switches from one of these two companies, including Thermaltake for its Poseidon Z (Kailh) and Rosewill for its Apollo (Cherry). Logitech decided to stray from these solutions, though it has made use of Cherry in the past.

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We discussed Logitech's new “Romer G” switch solution in full detail at PAX Prime this year. The company invested in development of the new “Romer G” switch that debuted in the G910 mechanical keyboard we're reviewing today, primarily boasting greater endurance. Romer G switches have a shorter actuation depth (quicker key presses), a more damped feel, and a large, centrally-positioned gap for brighter LEDs that are magnified by a lens. Most switches host some sort of plastic or spring hardware centrally, constricting space for an LED (though Corsair came up with its own solution).

In this review of Logitech's G910 RGB mechanical keyboard, we'll look at the Romer G switch tech, specs, backlight programming, and overall quality.

Tesoro is a fairly new gaming peripherals company, producing mice & surfaces, keyboards, and headsets. We’ve previously looked at Tesoro’s Tizona G2N mechanical keyboard, which we gave a modest review. Today, we’re reviewing Tesoro’s mid-level Gandiva H1L gaming mouse.

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The Gandiva H1L is a high-DPI gaming mouse with a unique aesthetic presentation and a familiar, welcomed feature set. At an MSRP of $60, it competes with a large range of mid-level gaming mice, including:

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