Hardware

NZXT's First Case: The 2003 Guardian

By Published October 14, 2016 at 8:30 am

It's crazy to think that someone had to “innovate” – to use the word lightly – and apply non-beige paint to PC cases. There had to be a first for that – just like there was a first to package a case in a non-brown cardboard box. In the former instance, we believe NZXT to be the pioneer in painted cases, though Antec shares some credit for early industry innovations (like box art). NZXT's Guardian was among the first painted cases available for DIY enthusiasts, and further emphasized its rebellious nature by outfitting the left side panel with an acrylic window. For 2003, these were leading advancements in case design.

And it fits, too. We also see NZXT as the trend-setter for power supply shrouds with the launch of its critically acclaimed H440 chassis, then later its S340. Since the H440 launched, we've seen a market shift where nearly every $70-$100 enclosure is outfitted with a PSU shroud. Corsair's 400C and 600C cases, the Rosewill Gungnir and Cullinan, the Phanteks P400, the SilverStone RL05 – they all follow this trend.

Thermaltake's updated Riing RGB LED fans that we spotted at Computex have received a few final tweaks prior to production. The new fans succeed Thermaltake's trend-setting Riing RGB fans, building on initial designs by adding a USB-attached hardware controller that can daisy chain sets of 3 RGB LED fans.

This controller is leveraged to allow independent speed and brightness controls, without which both speed and brightness are impacted by regulating voltage delivered to the fan. With most LED-enabled fans, reducing the speed (to a quieter 30%, for example) would also reduce the brightness linearly. This is because the voltage is reduced by the motherboard or host, and therefore all fan components are affected. With the controller, a fixed supply of voltage is delivered to the LEDs, while the speed is independently managed through software. Conversely, if the user wanted to run LEDs at half brightness (or even off), that could be done while retaining 100% fan speed.

We're still on the road – but it's almost over. For now. Last “Ask GN” update, we were posting from the Orange County / LA area for some hardware vendor visits that we'd done. This episode, despite being filmed at the usual set, we're posting from the San Jose area. It worked out to be: LA > Home > LA (CitizenCon) > San Jose, all in a span of about 3 weeks.

But we're here for another day before returning to hardware reviews. For this episode, we discuss the question of using a FreeSync display with a higher-end nVidia card versus a lower performing AMD card, VRM blower fans and if they do anything, the 6700K vs. 6600K, and revisiting old GPUs. The last question is one that we've already begun working on.

The Intel booth at PAX West hosted iBUYPOWER's Snowblind case mod, an early mock-up made to integrate an LCD panel into an NZXT Noctis 450 side panel. The team has since improved its mod by adding a light guide, useful for darkening the black colors and reducing “fuzziness” of the output, increasing contrast overall. The side of the case has also now moved the LCD PCB and wiring to the top of the panel, nearer the CPU, as an effort to improve viewing angles and reduce the discoloration observed from non-oblique angles. As a side effect, this improves cable management by rerouting the monitor wiring through the top of the case, more concealable with an N450, rather than through the PSU shroud.

The goal of this revisit was to get a better understanding of how the Snowblind works, since our PAX coverage was entirely based on a quick study on the show floor. The enclosure mounts a 5:4 (1280x1024) resolution LCD to the side of an NZXT Noctis 450, which has its left side panel manually punched by NZXT's factory that we previously toured. You can actually see some of the machines responsible for this process in our video tour of the Shenzhen-based God Speed Casing factory. This is a one-off punch done by the factory team, but could be tooled-up for mass production if the Snowblind ends up as an actual product.

MSI Laptop Naming Scheme Explained: GS vs. GE vs. GT

By Published October 01, 2016 at 8:30 am

Naming schemes are occasionally interesting topics – normally because a company has decided to stop naming its products after Greek gods, or because of its complexity. MSI's laptop lineup has grown enough in diversity to demand three primary lines (“Apache,” “Titan,” and “Stealth”), each of which is then assigned two significant numbers.

While visiting MSI at its office last week, we finally had a chance to demystify a naming scheme which the product managers acknowledge can be somewhat confusing. The laptops we looked at are all of the new 10-series nVidia options, previewed here, including the GT83, GT73, GE63, GS63, and GS73. Each character means something:

“Ye-- ye cain't take pictures h-- here,” a Porky Pig-like voice meekly spoke up from behind the acrylic windshield of a golf cart that'd rolled up behind us, “y-ye cain't be takin' pictures! I'm bein' nice right now!”

Most folks in media production, YouTube or otherwise, have probably run into this. We do regularly. We wanted to shoot an Ask GN episode while in California, and decided to opt for one of the fountains in Fountain Valley as the backdrop. That's not allowed, apparently, because that's just how rare water is in the region – don't look at it the wrong way. It might evaporate. Or something.

But no big deal – we grab the bags and march off wordlessly, as always, because this sort of thing just happens that frequently while on the road.

Regardless, because Andrew was not imprisoned for sneaking a shot of the fountain into our video or taking two pretzel snacks on the plane, Ask GN 29 has now been published to the web. The questions from viewers and readers this week include a focus on “why reviewers re-use GPU benchmark results” (we don't – explained in the video), the scalers in monitors and what “handles stretching” for resolutions, pump lifespan and optimal voltage for AIOs, and theoretical impact from HBM on IGPs.

We were able to get hands-on with the new NZXT S340 Elite enclosure, officially announced today at a $100 price-point. The case is an updated version of the NZXT S340 mid-tower, now two years old, and is primarily distinguished with its tempered glass and updated cable management.

This is the most similar enclosure we've yet seen to iBUYPOWER's Element that's based on the S340 (not available as a standalone product). The front panel sticks with a flat metal, the left side panel has been metamorphosed into a tempered glass window, and the window is fixed to the chassis with four screws. This is similar to all the other tempered glass panels we've seen lately, including the Cullinan and 460X.

NZXT's presence at the recent UCI eSports arena opening made for a silent unveil of new CAM software functionality, when coupled with the company's HUE+ RGB lighting controller. The software update ties Valve's official game state API to NZXT's CAM software, theoretically circumventing any potential anti-cheat concerns by nature of plugging straight into an official Valve programming interface.

At least a dozen game states are made accessible to developers, and NZXT may pick-and-choose which game states cue a visual reaction through attached HUE+ devices. For now, NZXT supports player health, grenade interactions (flashed, in smoke, on fire), and the C4 count-down. Users may customize individual colors of these events, but the demo offered a standard green/red for health, then used a white-ish LED illumination for flash bangs and a similar white-blue for smoke effects. Standing atop ground hit with incendiary grenades offered an orange hue from the HUE, and C4 instated a binary LED pulse – on and off – that matched the count-down timer.

Why 2 Power Adapters for the MSI Dual GTX 1080 Laptop?

By Published September 23, 2016 at 10:30 am

MSI and system integrator CyberPower are selling the new GT83VR Titan SLI notebook, which sells with K-SKU Intel CPUs and dual GTX 1070 or GTX 1080 GPUs. The move away from M-suffixed cards means that these GPUs are effectively identical to their desktop counterparts, with the exception of the GTX 1070's core increase and clock reduction.

That difference, just to quickly clear it away, results in 2048 CUDA cores on the notebook 1070 (vs. 1920 on the desktop) and a baseline clock-rate of 1645MHz on the notebook (1683MHz on the desktop). Despite talk about the 1060, 1070, and 1080 model notebooks, we haven't yet gotten into the SLI models for this generation.

Samsung 960 Pro & 960 EVO SSD Specs Announced

By Published September 21, 2016 at 1:00 pm

Samsung's 900-series SSDs marked the arrival of VNAND (NAND Flash explained here), a new NAND type that expanded capacity vertically to theoretically drive down the cost per gigabyte metric. Today, the company officially announced its 960 series SSDs, including the Samsung 960 Pro and Samsung 960 EVO. Both devices modernize their architecture by supporting NVMe on their new VNAND-based SSDs.

We think NVMe is one of the next big standards, as the standard SATA interface has reached its cap with data transfer rates. Intel and Samsung have both made moves to build the NVMe market and achieve higher throughput than was possible on a SATA bus.

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