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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In this review, we'll look at NZXT's Sentry 3 specs, its performance and accuracy as a fan controller and temperature reader, and overall build quality.
We're back with another mouse review, this time from a manufacturer not usually (or ever, really) known for their gaming mice: Rosewill. Admittedly, this review comes in part because of an urgently needed mouse replacement caused by the mechanical failure of a certain Genius Deathtaker, so anything that can left-click is a definite improvement, but we'll try to give some honest pros and cons.
Mechanical keyboards prevailed during the early days of the world's post-typewriter transition; some of IBM's earlier pieces -- like the buckling spring Model M -- have now become highly sought-after items in the world of keyboard enthusiasm. Mechanical keyboard evangelists would likely point-out that we didn't know how good we had it, but with time, membrane and other cheap keyboards rapidly became the norm. As gaming and PC hardware interest has kicked up, we've seen a revitalized focus on high-quality mechanical keyboards; this was discussed in more detail in our recent Rosewill RK-9100xBBR Apollo review.
Of late, we've primarily discussed keyboards using Cherry's somewhat ubiquitous MX switches. The MX switches are best-known for their color coding -- blue liked by typists, brown and red switches often celebrated by gamers, black for medium stiffness, and so forth. Although MX is arguably the most prevalent in today's marketplace, what with Corsair pushing it so hard (and Cooler Master... and Rosewill), there are plenty of other switch suppliers out there. One of them is Kailh ("Kaihua"), who've been making some of the most accurate Cherry MX clones since Cherry's patent expired. When we met with Thermaltake about their new Poseidon Z keyboard this year, we were told that they were "manufacturing their own switches" for the new keyboard -- ultimately, this meant that the company would be sourcing supply from Kailh. Not quite in-house, but Thermaltake staff were proud of themselves for deviating from Cherry. I can't say I blame them -- competition is a good thing.
Everyone's making mechanical keyboards lately. Leading keyboard brands like WASD Keyboards, Das Keyboard, and Ducky (also a supplier) have been at it for a while, but some of the incumbents from other corners of the industry want a piece of the peripherals market. If you've been following case and cooling manufacturers for the last few years, it's pretty likely you've noticed that they all latch onto industry trends: Cooler Master, Rosewill, Antec, and others all have some sort of "mobile" line of (let's be honest) supplied trash that they've slapped their stickers onto. Most of these manufacturers, including rising giant Corsair, have also been working to produce gaming peripherals for the last few years. Unlike the mobile offerings, these peripherals have some actual merit and value to them. Thankfully.
Reviewing a specific type of product with great repetition often gets boring -- especially when we've already seen the best-of-the-best for the current generation. We see a lot of the same, rehashed ideas when looking at cases and a lot of the same suppliers when it comes to CPU heatsinks. Thankfully, every now and then we see truly innovative advancements in each product line, often serving as welcomed reminders of why all these tests are fun and worthwhile.
We looked at NZXT's H440 back at CES 2014, where the company showcased their new enclosure in a top secret suite at Circus-Circus; after the show concluded, we ran a "best gaming cases of CES 2014" article that proclaimed the H440 to be "an innovator" in the space. So, if it's not clear, I've been excited to finally test this enclosure and see how it feels to build with and benchmark.
In this NZXT H440 case benchmark & review, we look at what has rapidly become our favorite mid-tower ATX gaming enclosure on the PC market. First, the video review:
With thanks to Antec, Cooler Master, and SilverStone, my boredom of closed-loop liquid coolers (CLCs) has subsided as more innovative designs have emerged. As we've discussed heavily before, a significant portion of the cooler industry goes through a single suppler: Asetek, who have a notoriously-long legal arm. Asetek's designs can be found most heavily used in NZXT and Corsair CLCs, and frankly, they're boring; they're rebadges with software options, in essence.
Antec's Kuhler H2O 1250 CLC blew away all other CLCs when we last tested a cooler, and now we're back to see if SilverStone can perform the same feat with their 240mm Tundra TD02 cooler. In this SilverStone Tundra TD02 benchmark and review, we'll look at the liquid cooler's installation, build quality, and thermal performance. This review will be a bit shorter than our previous CLC round-up and Antec 1250 review, as we've already covered many of the core cooling principles and can now focus purely on the unit.
After receiving an influx of peripherals to test (see: gaming mice reviews), we've finally worked our way toward gaming headsets. Headsets are slightly tougher to review than other, more objective components; the subjective nature of audio means that these reviews will be based more upon the user experience than hard numbers.
In this Plantronics RIG review, we look at the company's new gaming headset + mixer combo package, targeted toward cross-platform versatility and unique mixing use case scenarios.