Hardware

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.

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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.

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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.

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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: 

SilverStone Tundra TD02 CLC Review & Benchmark

By Published February 04, 2014 at 1:33 pm

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.

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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.

Plantronics RIG Gaming Headset + Mixer Review & Setup

By Published December 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm

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.

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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.

Closed-loop liquid coolers first hit the market a few years ago, instantly becoming "the thing" to have; it was an easy solution for users who wanted to lay claim to liquid cooling, but didn't necessarily have funding / ability for an open loop system.

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As these coolers emerged, it rapidly became evident that simply being a liquid cooler didn't make it inherently better than air. A solid, entry-level air cooler (like the AR01 or Hyper 212) will often out-endure and perform equally to a low-end liquid cooling solution. Just as with other aspects of hardware (a cheap Z87 board vs. an expensive H87 board, for instance), just because it's theoretically more advanced in one aspect, that doesn't mean the performance will outmatch a less technologically advanced product that employs higher-quality engineering. A tuned sleeper can blow past a high-end stock car, if we were to make analogous comparisons.

NZXT Phantom 530 Red Gaming Case Review & Benchmarks

By Published December 17, 2013 at 4:10 am

After our Antec GX700 review and H630 review, we figured it was time to look at something a little more mid-range for the system building market. NZXT's Phantom 530 came out a little while ago (and is included in our impending "how to build a PC" video tutorial), but we haven't had time to properly benchmark the thermals until recently. The Phantom 530 aims to fit between NZXT's Source line and larger Phantom offerings (like the P630), landing it at $130, but still packing extra features.

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In this NZXT Phantom 530 review, benchmark, & cable management guide, we'll look over the case's build quality and thermal performance. Given our previous history with Phantom cases, things certainly seem promising. Let's start with the specs.

Antec GX700 Budget Gaming PC Case Review & Benchmark

By Published October 28, 2013 at 12:31 pm

It's easy to get excited about ultra high-end computer hardware (like the HAF Stacker), but realistically, the largest percentage of our system building audience looks for cost efficiency. We've previously reviewed RAIDMAX's Cobra and Rosewill's R5 in the entry-level ~$50-$60 budget range, and in an effort to fill out our bench, we're adding Antec's new GX700.

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We first looked at the GX700 at CES 2013, where Antec representative Justin Chou demonstrated the case's main features. At the time, Antec noted that its objective was to fit a $50-$60 price-point and maximize case fan count without inflating cost. The case also hopes to fit a 'gamer' aesthetic that a lot of modern enclosures attempt, almost vaguely mirroring Corsair's higher-end C70 with its military styling and flair.

This Antec GX700 gaming case review aims to benchmark performance, optimal case fan placement, build quality, and best cable management practices. We tested multiple aftermarket fan configurations, so if you've got extra money to add fans, our below benchmark will help with  airflow optimization. We'd also recommend that you take a look at our case fan placement guide.

Our history of working with SilverStone has been relatively limited, but we've always walked away impressed. This first happened with the SG08, then again with the Raven RV02 -- which now sits firmly at the top of our thermal bench for enclosures. In talking with the company, we've found that they feel incredibly confident in their products' performance and—while that's not uncommon in PR—they haven't been wrong yet. I can respect that.

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The Argon AR01 cooler is another example of this: Having recently re-benched all our coolers on the 2013 GN Test Bench, SilverStone was eager to assert their dominance among air coolers. There are a few different models of the new Argon cooler, each purpose-built for different socket-types (and thus CPU sizes); the advantage to this is that—rather than ship a "one size fits all" unit, like the Hyper 212 or Respire T40—users can achieve peak thermal dissipation with optimized coldplate positioning.

Let's specifically look at Intel for demonstrative purposes: If you're not aware, the number accompanying LGA sockets is the pin-count for the socket. IB LGA1155 has 1155 pins that connect the socket and the CPU, SB-E LGA2011 has 2011 pins, and so on. As you can imagine, the physical substrate dimensions are dictated by the number of pins; this also tends to trend with more powerful (X-class) CPUs, which occupy their substrate with physically-larger silicon dies.

NZXT H630 Silent PC Case Review & Benchmark

By Published May 29, 2013 at 1:12 pm

Its knee-high, monolithic stature almost resembles what you'd find in a server farm: Wide, imposing, and externally simple. NZXT's H630 was slowly leaked via a drawn-out, week-long marketing campaign, towing behind it a website revamp and the Sentry Mix 2; with all the fanfare reinforcing the H630's launch, NZXT puts itself in the vulnerable position of living up to hype. Let's see if they do.

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This NZXT H630 silent gaming / PC case review looks at its benchmark performance, additional fans, specs, build quality, and briefly skims over noise level. We also tested multiple add-on fan configurations within the case, ideally helping interested buyers to determine the optimal fan configuration.

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