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.
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.
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:
The Zotac GTX 980 Extreme ($610) is the most disappointing, saddening attempt at a high-end overclocking device I've ever seen. I've never been so resonantly disheartened by a review product. I've also never seen an aftermarket product perform worse than the reference model while being priced more than 10% higher. The added cost is justified – on paper – by several factors, including a better cooler and higher bin (better GM204).
Testing Zotac's GTX 980 Extreme overclocking card began with excitement and anticipation, rapidly decaying as despair and uncertainty took hold. When the card failed to overclock higher than my reference GTX 980 ($550), I first suspected error on my end – and proved that suspicion wrong – and then went to Zotac with strong emphasis that the BIOS needed a serious overhaul. A BIOS update should have been quick and easy if no hidden problems existed in the hardware, as other video card manufacturers have proven in the past. We published all of this about a week ago, firmly stating that no one buy the GTX 980 Extreme until we could revisit the topic.
We're revisiting it.
A lot of enthusiasts have been buying off-brand Korean monitors lately. Now, this alone is hardly newsworthy, but these monitors are a little bit different than the average off-brand product. The QNIX 2710 ($333) is an LED-backlit, 27” PLS -- Samsung's version of IPS -- monitor at 1440p resolution. The QNIX 2710 is abnormal due to its lack of a scaler, which does require you to use DVI-D input, but allows the screen to be overclocked to 96Hz+. Yes -- these monitors can be overclocked. In fact, most users can overclock their QNIX 2710 to 96Hz, and some lucky people reach 120hz (though very rarely).
Due to the lack of a scaler, the QNIX does require DVI-D as the input source, adapters won't work, and consoles are not compatible with this monitor. The QNIX uses Samsung PLS panels, so the colors are quite vibrant and color-banding (inaccurate color presentation) isn’t common. These monitors do use cheaper casings, stands, and packaging to help decrease the cost. The standard QNIX 2710 comes in at $300 with a maximum of 5 stuck/dead pixels, and the “Pixel Perfect" version comes it at $345 with up to 3 stuck/dead pixels -- not quite pixel perfect, eh?
We're looking at Zotac's new Pico PI320 mini-PC today which, despite its name, is not a Raspberry Pi derivative. The Pico is part of an invasion force of mini computers that has been flooding the market lately. Steam Machines are one thing – and Zotac has made those, too – but these are entirely different. Mini PCs are more targeted at low-end, TV-mounted used, generally favoring browsing and YouTube viewing over any heavy-duty tasks.
Most don't have enough storage to work as a long-term multimedia solution, demanding a more robust network-attached storage device if movie or TV file streaming is a requirement. Mini PCs also don't afford the gaming prowess required to run much more than a 2D platformer; with thanks to efforts made by Valve's Steam, AMD, and nVidia (GameStream), game streaming to a mini PC is a possibility, but even that has other throttles (network, OS / platform concerns). All these shortcomings noted, they're still viable computers – it just depends on what the user wants. For browsing, business use (documents, simple spreadsheets, day-to-day life), and down-streamed content, a mini PC has potential for deployment.
It’s been a months-long journey of GTX 800, then GTX 900 rumors, broken embargoes, questions, and anticipation. The GTX 750 Ti saw the debut of NVidia’s Maxwell architecture almost 7 months ago, making for one of the first times the company has ever unveiled a low-end product before its architecture flagship. Then things went silent. Time passed, and as mobile 800-series GPUs began shipping, we still hadn’t heard about what would eventually become the GTX 900 series.
Then a box showed up.
“The World’s Most Advanced GPU” was written on the hefty black and green box, a few phone calls were made, and we knew it was time.
Cherry has historically made the vast majority of mechanical switches sold in North America, but in recent months, new manufacturer Kailh has entered the market -- no, not the farmers market. Kailh started selling switches in North America after Cherry's patent expired, therefore allowing Kailh's suspiciously similar switches to be sold legally.
Kailh has rapidly become more popular with companies like Thermaltake and Razer, who have adopted them due to their lower price. Before Cherry's patent expired, Kailh had a reputation for cheap switches in China, both in quality and price. Because some keyboard enthusiasts were less-than-enthusiastic about buying these new switches, Razer has made claims to tighten quality control.
We remarked upon the GTX 750 / 750 Ti reveal that passive cards were a distinct possibility, given the low TDP and ability of the cards to operate solely on motherboard PCI-e power. Hovering at a 55W TDP, nVidia’s GM107-powered GTX 750 doesn’t draw any power from the PSU and has a lower thermal footprint than any of its higher-powered brethren. With the right heatsink design, it’s always been an ideal candidate for a passively-cooled, silent, low-profile HTPC video card.
ZOTAC announced its “GTX 750 ZONE” passively-cooled solution just a few weeks ago. Standard GTX 750 specs apply, the one exception being that Zotac has nixed the active fan in favor of a larger aluminum and copper heatsink with no active components. Thermals are always a concern when operating a passively-cooled device, and with GPUs, thermals will directly impact the throttling and performance (FPS) output in games.
We benchmarked Zotac’s passive GTX 750 Zone video card for temperatures and framerate (FPS) in Metro, GRID, Battlefield 4, Titanfall, Watch_Dogs, and FurMark. These results can be extrapolated upon for a wider-spectrum understanding of the GPU’s worth for gaming.
There was a time when mouse bungees cost $20 to $30 and were a novel invention. Thankfully, that time's long past. There was also a time when we reviewed Razer's eXactMat X (2009) and remarked that its $40 price-point was the most we'd ever shelled-out for a mouse pad, but followed-up that the purchase was well worth it for sturdy aluminum.
Razer's pad, by the way, is still in use and now has about 5 years of life on it. Aluminum lasts a lot longer than cloth -- go figure.
Thermaltake's new Tt eSports "Draconem" mouse pad is a 2mm-thick, dual-side mousing surface with detachable cable bungee. The smooth side of the pad is brushed aluminum and anodized, outfitted with decals in opposing corners for the Tt eSports logos; the rougher side is grittier to offer greater traction with the mouse's Polytetrafluoroethylene (Teflon) feet, colored with a red dragon emblem off-center.
The Draconem is somewhat massive, scaling in at 360 x 300 x 5mm (14.1 x 11.8 x 0.2") and taking up significant desk real-estate.
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